An interesting new Australian study has found that people who have had the annual flu vaccine had a near half reduced risk of having a heart attack, referred to as MI (myocardial infarction) in this article from Australian Medical Observer.
A study from the University of New South Wales found that, in 559 patients aged over 40 and referred to a Sydney hospital over three years, the risk of acute MI decreased by 45% in those patients who had been vaccinated.
Lead author Professor Raina MacIntyre reports states: “Given the huge burden of coronary artery disease in society, even a small effect of influenza vaccination in preventing [MI] may have a significant population health impact.”
After taking into account other influential factors, such as age, high cholesterol and smoking, influenza did not increase MI risk but vaccination against the infection did seem to be protective.
Previous research had indicated that infections such as influenza might encourage blood thickening or prompt an inflammatory response in arteries that are already diseased, so sparking the development of a blockage.
The authors added that vaccination of people with a first MI could also have a significant impact, considering the high rates of subsequent acute coronary events in such patients.
So what are the take home messages from this study?
- Inflammation caused by the influenza (flu) virus can lead to the early start of artery changes that cause heart attacks.
- Flu vaccination is a effective way to preventing infection and the associated inflammation.
- This reduced inflammation appears to reduce the risk of a heart attack in people who may not normally consider getting a flu vaccine.
- Finally all people who have had a heart attack, or other heart disease should strongly consider having a flu vaccination.
Flu season is on it’s way for people living in the northern hemisphere. I highly recommend considering getting a flu vaccine this year.
The flu vaccine’s protection may very well be from more then an annoying and sometimes fatal infection.
Yours in great health.
Dr George Forgan-Smith