An Annual Flu Shot Could Offer Additional Protection For Heart Disease Patients

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Your flu shot may be protecting you from more than just the flu. It could also protect you against the number one killer of Americans.

Loreen Naylor told CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez that she thought the chest pains that she was experiencing were nothing serious.

“At first I thought it was muscle pain and wasn’t too worried about it and then I realized this is not right. I need to get in to see my doctor,” she said.

Loreen was diagnosed with heart disease. She also gets a flu shot every year and that vaccine may offer additional protection for her and other heart disease patients.

“I encourage anybody who’s skeptical about getting the flu vaccine for any reason that there is potentially other benefit here from a cardiac point of view,” said Dr. Jacob A. Udell, Women’s College Hospital of Toronto.

Researchers at the University of Toronto reviewed clinical trials that compared patients given the flu shot to those given standard care or a placebo. They were able to analyze data from just over 6,700 patients who were, on average, in their mid 60’s. A little more than half of the group were women.

“Overall there was about a 33-percent reduction in risk for heart attacks, strokes, and other major cardiovascular events in those who received the flu shot compared to those who’d received a placebo or just the standard of care,” Dr. Udell explained.

The study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“And in those folks who had a recent heart attack the improved benefit was even more substantial, fifty-percent risk reduction for those getting a major cardiovascular event if you got the flu shot,” Dr. Udell said.

Loreen has started a program to change her lifestyle and diet. She is also entering the hospital’s cardiac rehab program.

“It’s very important to me so I can do all the things that I love to do,” she said.

Flu vaccines don’t change heart disease, according to CBS 2’s Dr. Gomez, but serious respiratory infections like the flu can put a significant strain on the heart and can uncover underlying heart disease and trigger a heart attack or a stroke.

Getting vaccinated can prevent the flu meaning a reduction in heart strain and fewer heart events.

While more study is needed it has become clear that the flu shot provides multiple benefits and that everyone should be vaccinated, researchers said.

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