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Flu Vaccine could Prevent First Heart Attack

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers from Canada say seasonal flu vaccine could help protect from first heart attack. Avoidance of upper respiratory infection that is a hallmark symptom of flu could be the reason for the protection.

Past studies have shown a link between respiratory function and vascular inflammation that can lead to heart attack. In recent years, environmental issues that affect the respiratory system have been targeted a risk factor for myocardial infarction.

Scientists from the United Kingdom studied patients from 379 family practices, over age 40, finding that seasonal flu vaccine was associated with a 19 percent reduction in first heart attack.

Early Flu Vaccine Best Protection from First Heart Attack

Included in the study were 78 706 patients. A total of 16,012 suffered from a heart attack - 8472 of the patients had been vaccinated against influenza. Seasonal flu vaccine , taken between September and mid- November, offered the best protection, with a 21 percent risk reduction.

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For individuals receiving seasonal flu vaccine later, heart attack protection dropped to 12 percent. According to the authors, seasonal flu vaccine, targeted to specific groups, could offer more than just protection from flu, especially for those without known risk factors for heart disease.

The researchers adjust for potential study bias that could result from higher rates of vaccination among patients with known heart disease. "This benefit may lead to an increase in suboptimal rates of vaccination, particularly among younger patients", write the authors.

Should further studies support the findings, the scientists say it may change recommendations to include seasonal flu vaccination in the early fall months, as well as recommendations about populations that would benefit the most.

Although the study found that seasonal flu vaccine reduced the chances of first heart attack by as much as 21 percent for early vaccination, no benefit for reducing myocardial infarction was found from pneumonia vaccine.