Getting a flu shot is linked to lower risk of death — both overall and from cardiovascular causes — in people with cardiovascular disease, according to an analysis published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
People with cardiovascular disease are known to be at higher risk for severe influenza and related complications, including death. People with cardiovascular disease also tend to be older compared with the general population, and older people face a higher risk of poor health outcomes related to getting the flu. Given this background, researchers were interested in how much of an impact getting a flu shot could have on reducing the risk of death, as well as major cardiovascular events like heart attacks, in people with cardiovascular disease.
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The researchers included a total of 16 studies in their analysis, all of which included data on outcomes in people with cardiovascular disease who got a flu shot or didn’t get one. Four of these studies were randomized controlled trials — considered the “gold standard” for study design, in which participants are randomly assigned to an intervention, in this case to get a flu shot or not to get one. The rest of the studies were observational, meaning they simply looked at outcomes in people who either did or didn’t get a flu shot. Observational studies are considered less definitive in certain ways, since people who choose to get a flu shot may be different from those who don’t in ways that can’t be easily measured, such as being generally more proactive about their health.
Among all study participants included in the analysis, the average age was 69, and about 37% were women. Hypertension was seen in 65% of participants, and 31% had diabetes. Participants were followed for an average of 19.5 months, during which outcomes were recorded related to cardiovascular events and death.
Flu shot linked to a lower risk of death
Overall, getting a flu shot was linked to a 25% lower risk of death from all causes, and an 18% lower risk of death from cardiovascular causes. Participants were also 13% less likely to have a major cardiovascular event. Overall, these numbers show that getting a flu shot offers substantial benefits in people with cardiovascular disease, suggesting that getting the flu may exacerbate cardiovascular disease in a number of different ways, with potentially deadly results.
“Data from both randomized controlled trials and observational studies support the use of the influenza vaccine in adults with cardiovascular disease to reduce mortality and cardiovascular events,” the researchers wrote. “Clinicians and health systems should continue to promote the influenza vaccine” according to clinical guidelines, they concluded.
Want to learn more about protecting your heart? Read “Be Heart Smart: Know Your Numbers,” “Does Diabetes Hurt Your Heart?” “Fight Off Heart Disease With These Five Heart-Healthy Foods” and “Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease.”
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