Study Finds Flu Shot Can Cut Heart Attack Risk by Half

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Yet another study was presented this past weekend that shows a correlation between receiving a flu shot and a reduced risk of heart attack or stroke. The study, which was presented at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto on Sunday, concluded that getting a flu shot reduced a person's risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke by half, according to a report by MyHealthNewsDaily.

This latest study, which was conducted by researchers working through the auspices of the Women's College Hospital and the University of Toronto, compared data from four previous studies regarding the effect of the flu vaccine on heart disease. While some of the more than 3,000 participants already had heart conditions, many did not. Participants in the studies had been divided into three groups -- those that were given a flu shot, those who were given a placebo, and those that were not given a shot of any kind.

According to a press release that accompanied the study's presentation on Sunday, lead researcher Dr. Jacob Udell believes that given the mounting evidence that flu shots not only protect against influenza, but also provide other health benefits, the percentage of the general population that gets the shot is "still much too low." Udell noted that less than 50 percent of the population actually gets the shot, and that it is even "poorly used among healthcare workers."

Udell's study is one of several larger studies in the past few years that have reached the same conclusions. One of the first such studies was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in April of 2003. The NEJM study specifically focused on the link between the influenza vaccine and a lower risk of heart disease among the elderly. That research, which involved nearly 300,000 people over the age of 65, was among the first to begin recommending a flu shot for elderly populations for reasons besides just protection from influenza.

Another such study was published in 2010 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. That research, according to a report by Reuters, again focused on the link between the flu shot and a person's risk of developing heart disease. Again scientists found that the flu shot appeared to reduce people's risk of suffering a "first-time" heart attack, but they could not conclusively prove that the flu shot was the reason.

Speaking regarding the results of his own study, Udell said in his press release on Sunday that he felt that the study's conclusions needed to be researched on a larger scale. While he said that his findings should influence "current guideline recommendations" for people that have already suffered a heart attack or had a prior history of heart disease, it would require a "large, lengthier multinational study" to "comprehensively demonstrate" the flu vaccine's success in reducing the risk of developing other specific ailments.

Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, who frequently covers health and nutrition topics.

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