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Flu shots may help protect the heart

An analysis of studies shows there may be a connection between getting the flu shot and avoiding cardiovascular problems.

By Gabrielle Levy
Flu shots may help protect the heart
UPI/Alexis C. Glenn | License Photo

(UPI) -- An annual flu shot may do more than help you avoid feeling lousy through the winter -- it could improve your long-term heart health.

Analysis of research from five published studies shows that patients who received a placebo or no treatment experienced a major cardiovascular problem nearly twice as often as those who got a flu shot.

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The combined studies involved 6,000 people, of whom the average age was 67 years old. Around a third of those studied had a history of cardiac problems.

Of those who received flu shots, 95 people -- 2.9 percent -- had a major cardiovascular event in the next year. Among those who did not get the vaccination, 151 people -- 4.7 percent -- had a major cardiovascular problem.

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And among those who had already experienced heart problems, the difference was more pronounced. Just one in ten of those treated with the flu vaccine had another cardiac event within a year, compared to nearly one in four of those who did not receive the treatment.

While the study found only that the incidence of cardiovascular problems was associated with getting a flu shot -- not that the flu shot actually caused a reduction in heart problems -- researchers said avoiding the flu was what likely made the biggest difference.

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Getting sick could trigger a number of problems in already vulnerable patients, such as the rupture of artery plaques, inflammation of the heart muscle or irregular heartbeat.

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As such, the flu vaccination "represents a simple, once-annual protective therapy to reduce cardiovascular events," the researchers wrote in the study, published in the October 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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