If you’re not in the best health of your life — maybe exercise is sporadic, maybe the bad cholesterol is a little too high — you might consider getting a flu shot. Seems random, but researchers think there may be a connection between the annual vaccine and a lowered risk for heart attacks and strokes.
New research published in a Canadian review found that participants who got the flu shot were 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke and 40 percent less likely to die from one if they did.
They’re not sure what, if any, connection there is, but it may have to do with a symptom of the flu — inflammation of blood vessels.
The study, led by Dr. Jacob Udell at the Women’s College Hospital and the University of Toronto, reviewed four heart studies involving a total around 3,000 patients. Most of the patients were over 30 years old; the average age was 60. Participants were divided into 3 groups — vaccine, no vaccine and placebo. In the year after the vaccine, there were 187 heart attacks or strokes and 64 deaths, according to a report on MSNBC about the findings.
In effect, the flu vaccine was a heart attack vaccine.
This is especially important news for women, especially at at time when flu shot rates, even among health care workers, are dropping. According to the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, 42 million women live with cardiovascular disease and don’t even know it. More than a third of deaths of women over 20 are caused by heart disease.
While a flu shot won’t fix the underlying cardiovascular problems, inoculating against the annual and highly contagious virus might do more than save women from missing work. It could save their lives.
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