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Study: Flu shots may also ward off heart attacks, strokes

  • October 23, 2013 - 8:28 PM

Get a flu shot to ward off a case of influenza, and as an added bonus you’ll reduce your risk of a heart attack, stroke or other type of unpleasant “cardiovascular event,” a new study finds.

For some time, researchers have suspected that flu shots can protect heart health as well as respiratory health. They have tested this theory in a handful of clinical trials, and the results have been mixed.

Now an international group of researchers has compiled data from a dozen randomized clinical trials to see whether they could get a clearer answer to the question. What they found was “a consistent association between influenza vaccination and a lower risk of cardiovascular events,” according to their report in Wednesday’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Three of the trials the researchers examined focused on patients with coronary artery disease. Patients who got the vaccine were 55 percent less likely to have a serious heart problem than patients in the control groups, the researchers found.

When the researchers considered cardiovascular deaths on their own, they found no statistically significant difference between the 1.3 percent of people who died after getting a flu shot and the 1.7 percent who died after being assigned to a placebo or control group.

Experts aren’t sure why the flu increases the risk of serious heart problems, but they have their theories. It may cause a plaque that has built up inside the arteries to rupture, or it may cause the heart muscle to become inflamed, among other possibilities. LOS ANGELES TIMES

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