Flu Vaccine May Reduce Death Rate, Risk of Hospital Stays in Type 2 Diabetes

People with Type 2 diabetes who receive the flu vaccine may have a reduced risk of death and be less likely to be hospitalized for heart attack, stroke, and heart failure, according to new research from Imperial College London.

Roughly 29 million people in the United States (about 9.1% of the population) and 3.1 million people in the United Kingdom (about 4.8% of the population) have Type 2 diabetes. Guidelines in both countries recommend that most people with the condition receive a flu, or influenza, shot each year, preferably toward the beginning of flu season, which starts around October in the United States.

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People with diabetes are two to four times more likely than those without to have cardiovascular disease. To determine the impact of the flu vaccine on rates of hospital admission for cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, researchers looked at seven years’ worth of data from 124,503 people with Type 2 diabetes.

After adjusting for various differences between the subjects such as age and additional health conditions, the researchers found that people who had received the flu vaccine had a 19% lower risk of hospitalization for heart attack during flu season (although this result was not statistically significant), 22% decreased risk for heart failure, 30% lower risk for stroke, and 15% reduced risk for pneumonia or flu compared to unvaccinated people with Type 2 diabetes. Those who were vaccinated also had a 24% lower death rate than those who were not vaccinated.

“There are few studies looking at the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine in people with diabetes. Although there have been questions surrounding the effectiveness of the flu vaccine in recent years, this research demonstrates a clear advantage for people with diabetes. The findings of the study illustrate the importance of flu vaccine in reducing the risk of ill health and death in people with long-term conditions‚Ķpatients with diabetes should ensure they receive the vaccine every year,” noted co-senior study author Azeem Majeed, MD.

For more information, see the article “Flu vaccine reduces risk of hospital stay for stroke, heart failure for diabetes patients” or the study’s abstract in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). And to learn about dietary approaches that can help further reduce the risk of influenza, read “Fighting the Flu With Food,” by certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian Amy Campbell.

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