The flu season is just beginning in the northern hemisphere and doctors are urging anyone older than six months to get immunized. A new study also suggests the vaccine may do more than ward off the flu.
Medical experts say there is nothing that kills as many people as the flu.
Heart patients, like Loreen Naylor, are especially vulnerable. That's why she gets vaccinated every year. "I think it is very important. It’s a way of managing my own health and making sure I don’t get the flu,” she said.
Doctors say heart patients who get the flu seem to have a higher risk of heart attack, heart failure or stroke.
Researchers believe as our bodies fight the disease, inflammation and plaque in our arteries become more unstable and may form clots and blockages. It appears the flu vaccine, though, may help protect even healthy people from heart attack and stroke.
Dr. Jacob Udell at Women's College Hospital in Toronto analyzed data from previous studies involving nearly 7,000 patients.
“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,” said Udell.
For people who'd recently had a heart attack, getting a flu shot cut their risk of having another one by 50 percent. So Dr. Udell says getting the vaccine is a no brainer [requires little thought].
"I encourage anybody who’s skeptical about getting the flu vaccine for any reason that there is a potential other benefit here from a cardiac point of view,” he said.
Udell said he now wants to hold a large new trial to see if he gets the same outcome. The result of his recent analysis was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.