OCT 17, 2021 1:50 AM PDT

Flu Vaccination Significantly Reduces Risk of Cardiac Events

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The flu has been associated with a significantly increased risk of a cardiac event like heart attack or stroke. But the flu vaccine can reduce that risk, even if a vaccinated person still contracts the flu. Unfortunately, Americans with heart disease, who already have a significantly elevated risk of heart attack and stroke, do not have high rates of flu vaccination. Under 50 percent of Americans with heart disease who are under 65 years of age get the flu vaccine, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Image credit: Pixabay

The flu is a respiratory illness, and can cause other respiratory complications like bronchitis, pneumonia, and bacterial infections. Research has now shown that deaths from cardiovascular events spike at the same time that flu epidemics do, and that in the week following a flu infection, people are six times more likely to have a heart attack compared to any other time of the year.

Various studies have connected flu and heart attacks; one study including over 300,000 people showed that 11.5 percent of people hospitalized with the flu also had a cardiac event; another study including about 90,000 people found basically the same rate: 11.7 percent.

Cardiac events seem to be linked to the flu because of inflammation. The immune response to infection can be massive, and has to be carefully controlled. When immune activity is ramped up because of something like the flu, blood clots can occur because the vasculature is flooded with immune cells and molecules. Blood pressure may increase, the heart can swell, the arteries are under stress and they become vulnerable to breakage. Ruptures in the arteries may cut off oxygen, causing a heart attack, or stroke. The flu can also worsen symptoms of heart disease.

Even when the seasonal flu vaccine is not great at stopping flu infection, it still reduces the likelihood that people will be hospitalized for the flu. Vaccinated people are 37 percent less like to be hospitalized and 82 percent less likely to go to the ICU.

When people with acute coronary syndrome were vaccinated, their rate of cardiovascular events was about 9.5 percent, but the rate was 19 percent in those who were unvaccinated. If people got the flu, their risk of a cardiovascular event was 4.7 percent if unvaccinated, which dropped to 2.9 percent in vaccinated people.

The researchers stressed the importance of getting a flu vaccine, especially in anyone with a chronic health condition. Seasonal flu vaccines for this year are now available.

Sources: Houston Methodist, Journal of the American Heart Association

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUN 15, 2021
Cardiology
A Common Thread Among 20% of Sudden Cardiac Deaths
JUN 15, 2021
A Common Thread Among 20% of Sudden Cardiac Deaths
It's estimated that 450,000 Americans die from sudden heart conditions, and in about one in ten cases, the cause is unex ...
JUN 28, 2021
Cardiology
The Electricity of a Beating Heart is Caught on Graphene Camera
JUN 28, 2021
The Electricity of a Beating Heart is Caught on Graphene Camera
When graphene was first developed, it was hailed as a revolutionary material but its potential uses seemed unclear to ma ...
JUL 29, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Obesity May Not Always Lead to Disease
JUL 29, 2021
Obesity May Not Always Lead to Disease
Some gene variants might be protecting people from the negative health effects of obesity.
SEP 21, 2021
Health & Medicine
The (Not So) Secret To A Happy Life: Fruits, Vegetables, and Exercise
SEP 21, 2021
The (Not So) Secret To A Happy Life: Fruits, Vegetables, and Exercise
Researchers uncover causal link between a healthy lifestyle and satisfaction with life.
SEP 26, 2021
Cardiology
New Type of Artificial Heart Tested in Several Patients Shows Promise
SEP 26, 2021
New Type of Artificial Heart Tested in Several Patients Shows Promise
In July, a new type of artificial heart was been implanted for the first time in a US patient at Duke University Medical ...
OCT 21, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Cholesterol Drug Regrows Neurons After Spinal Cord Injury
OCT 21, 2021
Cholesterol Drug Regrows Neurons After Spinal Cord Injury
Fenofibrate, an FDA-approved drug used to reduce cholesterol levels, causes sensory neurons in the spine following spina ...
Loading Comments...