Monday, October 29, 2012

Flu jab ‘can halve heart attack risk’: Vaccine ‘also cuts cardiac deaths and chances of stroke’

The flu jab may ward off heart attack as well as offer protection from the illness
Protection: The flu jab may ward off heart attack as well as offer protection from the illness

 The flu jab may ward off heart attacks as well as offering protection from the infectious disease, according to a study. Researchers found that the jab can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 50 per cent and cardiac deaths by 40 per cent. They said the influenza vaccine could be an important treatment for maintaining heart health and protecting against cardiovascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks.

Cardiologist Jacob Udell and his team looked at published clinical trials on the subject dating back to the 1960s.
 For those who had the flu shot, there was a pretty strong risk reduction,’ he said. The flu vaccine provided an approximate 50 per cent reduction in the risk of a heart attack or stroke compared with a placebo after one year of follow-up.  The vaccine reduced the risk of such cardiovascular events as well as actual deaths from them in those with or without heart disease. The combined studies examined a total of 3,227 patients, with an almost equal split between patients with and without established heart disease. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive flu vaccine.  The others received a placebo vaccine. Dr Udell said the results provide support for current guideline recommendations for giving the flu jab to those who have previously had a heart attack, but for a different reason than simply reducing flu risk. 

 The vaccine reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke when compared with a placebo

The vaccine reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke when compared with a placebo

While the reason for the link is not clear, Dr Udell said that it may be that when people develop heart disease some factor ‘tips them over the edge’, such as plaque clogging arteries or lower levels of oxygen, as a result of the flu. The flu vaccine may stop this by preventing flu, or  by actually breaking up plaque in the arteries. He said that he believed a bigger study would comprehensively demonstrate the vaccine’s effectiveness to reduce fatal cardiac events.

The research could also boost take-up of the vaccine. Dr Udell, a cardiologist at Women’s College Hospital and Toronto University, said: ‘The use of the vaccine is still much too low, less than 50 per cent of the general population.  It’s even poorly used among health care workers. ‘Imagine if this vaccine could also be a proven way to prevent heart disease.’ Dr Udell carried out his study with a team from the TIMI Study Group and Network for Innovation in Clinical Research.

The findings were presented at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto. Each year in the UK about 20 per cent of adults and 5 per cent of children catch flu, but only 1 per cent of adults need hospital treatment for it. Although the illness is easily shaken off by most, about 600 people a year die from complications. This rises to around 13,000 during an epidemic. At present, the over-65s, pregnant women and anyone with an underlying health condition, including asthma and diabetes, are offered flu jabs on the NHS.

Daily Mail UK
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