Flu jab protects against heart attack

27 August 2015

27 August 2015

Amanda Davey

flu vaccination protects against heart attack

A flu shot may be even more worthwhile than quitting smoking when it comes to preventing heart attacks in people who have already had a heart attack or who are at risk of heart attack, according to new research.

Evidence shows the flu vaccine can cut the risk of a heart attack by 29%. The researchers say this is on a par with, or better than, accepted heart attack preventive measures, such as the cholesterol-lowering drugs statins (which reduce risk by 25%), high blood pressure medicines (15-18% reduced risk) and quitting smoking (26% reduced risk).

As a result of these findings, the team from UNSW’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine are now calling for universal flu vaccination for people over 50.

Their work confirms existing evidence that people are twice as likely to experience heart attacks when they have the flu.

“I would recommend the flu jab for anyone over 50 regardless if they are at risk of heart disease,” says lead researcher Professor Raina MacIntyre.

“Our findings add to the evidence supporting influenza (flu) vaccination for middle-aged adults.”

The researchers say theirs is the first analysis to find a significant association between recent respiratory infection and heart attack.

The theory is that influenza triggers inflammation in the arteries or causes blood to thicken, making it easier for a blood clot to form in an already-diseased/narrowed coronary artery, thus causing a blockage in the blood supply to the heart, which precipitates a heart attack.

Last Reviewed: 27 August 2015

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Amanda Davey

Amanda Davey

Medical writer and editor of 6minutes.