London: You might think it would only keep you from the flu, but a flu jab could come with huge benefits to the heart, says a new study. Major heart attack and stroke risks could be cut by 50 percent, and cardiac deaths by 40 percent, with just a flu jab, according to research by two Toronto-based researchers.
Jacob Udell, cardiologist at Women`s College Hospital and the University of Toronto, and his team from the TIMI Study Group and Network for Innovation in Clinical Research looked at published clinical trials on this subject, dating back to the 1960s.
"For those who had the flu shot, there was a pretty strong risk reduction," says Udell.
The flu vaccine provided an approximate 50 percent reduction in the risk of a major cardiac event (heart attack, stroke, or cardiac death) compared with placebo (sugar pills) after one year of follow-up, according to a Toronto statement.
A similar trend was seen for the flu vaccine reducing death from any cause (40 percent). The flu jab reduced cardiovascular events and cardiovascular death in people 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 and those that did not typically received a placebo vaccine.
Udell says these results provide support for current guideline recommendations for flu shots of individuals with a prior heart attack, but for a different reason than simply reducing flu risk.
And although it was encouraging to see a reduction in non-fatal cardiac events, he believes a large, lengthier multi-national study would comprehensively demonstrate the vaccine`s effectiveness to reduce fatal cardiac events and save lives.
This research could also potentially boost use of the vaccine, which Udell believes is still woefully low.
The findings were presented at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.