Flu shot offers protection against heart attack?

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Flu shot offers protection against heart attack?

(09/23/2010) Pharmaceutical manufacturers and doctors emphasize that a flu shot would now be beneficial to protect yourself from the seasonal flu wave. A British study comes in handy, because the flu vaccine is said to reduce the risk of heart attack. The results of the study have been published in the scientific journal "Canadian Medical Association Journal". The study is based on an evaluation by Prof. Niroshan Siriwardena from the University of Lincoln.

Risk of flu, especially in winter
Summer is over and the typical autumn diseases are approaching. Medical experts in particular are calling on so-called high-risk groups to be vaccinated against seasonal flu. For the first time, it is also called for pregnant women to participate in the vaccination. The reason for this is that pregnant women have a weakened immune system. Typical risk groups include the elderly, children, cardiovascular patients and the chronically ill. According to health authorities, the months of September, October and November are the best time to vaccinate against flu. However, the immune system needs about 10 to 14 days to build effective flu protection.

Study evaluated data from UK GP patients
As part of an English "case-control study", the data from around five percent of British GP patients were examined and analyzed. The data came from the archive of the "Kingdom General Practice Research Database". The researchers found that a flu shot not only protects against severe pneumonia, but can also reduce the risk of a heart attack. The scientists observed that those vaccinated after a flu vaccination were less likely to develop a heart attack than those who had no flu protection. The heart attack risk decreased by around a fifth.

Heart attack risk higher in winter than in summer
In winter the likelihood of having a heart attack is much higher than in the warmer months in summer. Because in winter the blood pressure rises due to the colder temperatures. The risk of high blood pressure is significantly higher in winter. To compensate for the cold, the blood vessels contract. The heart must now pump through the narrower blood vessels against greater resistance. In addition, researchers at the University of Lincoln suspect that there is a connection between flu vaccination, respiratory infections and a heart attack. The data was then evaluated in this context.

Patients who were vaccinated had a lower risk of heart attack

The researchers evaluated the data from around 78,000 patient data from British general practitioners in England and Wales. All patients were over 40 years old. The analysis differentiated between heart attack patients and healthy volunteers. Between 2001 and 2007, 16,012 study participants had already suffered a heart attack. Around 8,000 of them had already been vaccinated against the flu. Using these data, the scientists now calculated the heart attack risk of vaccinated patients and those who had not received vaccination, taking into account further values. This resulted in the comparison result that the risk of suffering a heart attack decreases by a flu vaccination by 19 percent. The scientists also argued that early vaccination between September and November can reduce the risk of heart attack by as much as 21 percent. If people get vaccinated later, i.e. only in December or January, the reduction is only 12 percent. Pneumococcal vaccinations, which are said to protect against pneumonia, did not show any reducing effects. This vaccination does not affect the risk of heart attack in humans.

Significance of the study in criticism

But how meaningful are such studies? It is suspected that such studies should underline the benefits of a flu shot so that more people take part. The study is also accused of inaccuracy on the technical side. For Prof. Hans-Jürgen Becker from the German Heart Foundation, the informative value of this study is less sensational. Becker believes that potentially threatened heart attacks can benefit patients from the flu vaccine because the vaccine protects them from a weakened immune system. The heart specialist considers it unlikely that this effect will also occur in healthy people.

In this context, critics point out that so-called case-control studies are highly susceptible to data distortions. It would be better if there had been a differentiation between the years. This could have been used to check whether the vaccine matched the actual flu season viruses and when it was not. Vaccine critics also complain that some of the vaccines still contain preservatives. These substances can also contain formaldehyde and mercury. In addition, flu viruses are sometimes reproduced with chicken egg whites, which can trigger an allergy in some people. (sb)

Also read:
New flu vaccine also for swine flu
Too much weight increases blood pressure
Overtime is bad for the heart

Author and source information

Video: Flu Shots and your Heart


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