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Heart Attacks And Strokes: One More Reason To Get Your Flu Shot

Experts say getting the vaccine early each year is the best protection against the flu.

As if the discomfort from the virus wasn't enough, here's another reason to get your flu shot: New research suggests the vaccine may help avoid heart attacks and strokes.

A team led by Daniel Modin, a research associate of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, wondered whether putting an end to the flu infection with the aid of vaccination would protect against cardiovascular problems.

Research revealed an association between vaccination and the flu season, plus:

  • An 18 percent reduction in relative risk of dying from all causes.
  • 16 percent less a relative risk of dying from a cardiovascular event.
  • 10 percent lower relative risk of dying from a heart attack and stroke. 

Dr. Rishin Shah, an interventional cardiologist with Texas Health Plano, explains the ties between flu and heart attacks, strokes and hypertension.

The tie between flu and heart attacks and strokes: "Basically, an inflammatory process. Flu activates your inflammation system to kind of fight it. And the stress response can lead to potential heart attacks."

People with hypertension? "Hypertension is kind of the same thing; it's a risk factor. So if you have hypertension, vs not hypertension, you're likely a little sicker, so you're more prone to the inflammation and the stress that comes along with it. There's some thought that the flu vaccine for a short period of time may even increase blood pressure." 

Who in the high risk group should avoid a flu shot? "The regular flu shot that you get the injection for, all these people can really get. There's a nasal spray that has a live virus that people that are high risk with high heart disease should probably avoid. It can possibly cause a concomitant infection on top of your problems."


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Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.