Individuals over 50 who receive a flu shot can reduce their risk of having a heart attack by as much as 85 percent.
Results from a recent study offer another reason to get a flu shot annually. Researchers collected data from more than seven million high-risk hospital patients (elderly and autoimmune compromised) and found those that received a shot decreased their odds of having a heart attack by as much as 85 percent and lowered their chances of suffering a stroke by half. The study, presented in late July during the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences (BCVS) 2020 Scientific Sessions online, also found deaths from any cause fell by almost three-quarters among patients over 50 years of age who were vaccinated.
“The results we found are staggering,” said lead author Roshni Mandania, a medical candidate at Texas Tech University in Dallas. “It’s hard to ignore the positive effect the flu vaccine can have on serious cardiac complications. Some people don’t view flu vaccinations as necessary or important, and many may face barriers accessing health care, including receiving the flu vaccine.”
Mandania’s team compared 168,325 participants who had received a flu shot and those who didn’t with individuals over 50 who didn’t and had heart complications. Shot recipients over 50 were 85 and 28 percent less likely to suffer a cardiac arrest or heart attack and at a 47 percent lower risk of suffering a mini stroke, transient ischaemic attack. Mortality rates fell by 73 percent. “The stress flu puts on the body is well known, and can actually cause a heart attack or stroke,” explained the researchers.
Even with this data, researchers explained that high risk populations, including the elderly in nursing homes, are much less likely to receive a shot than the general population – 1.8 versus 15.3 percent. Immunization rates for other high-risk patients, including those with HIV/AIDS and the obese was also around two percent, compared to nine percent.
“The flu vaccination rate was paradoxically low in high-risk groups who are already more susceptible to getting the flu than the general, average-risk (hospital) population,” said Mandania. “These groups should have the highest vaccination rates because they are the most at risk. However, our findings show the opposite. Flu vaccinations are under-utilized. As health care providers, we must do everything we can to ensure our most vulnerable populations are protected against the flu and its serious complications.”
The researchers found 1.8% of adults 50 and older in the study received a shot in the hospital, compared with rates of about 15% for all hospitalized patients. “These numbers are alarming and simply hard to ignore,” Mandania said.
Dr Eduardo Sanchez, the American Heart Association’s chief medical officer for prevention, announced following the study, “We have partnered with the American Lung Association and the American Diabetes Association to collectively deliver a message to providers. In particular, for patients who have chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes or emphysema, it’s critically important to get the annual flu vaccine. The potentially serious complications of the flu are far, far greater for those with chronic diseases.”