Flu jab may halve heart attack risk in middle aged with narrowed arteries

August 21, 2013

The flu jab seems to almost halve the risk of heart attacks in middle aged people with narrowed arteries, finds research published in the journal Heart.

Those aged 50 to 64 are not currently routinely included in national programmes in either the UK or Australia. But the findings prompt the Australian authors to suggest that further exploration of extending the schedule may be warranted.

The researchers wanted to find out if flu is an unrecognised, but clinically important, contributing factor to increased heart attack risk. Published evidence suggests that flu boosts the risk of death from all causes as well as the risk of admission to hospital for cardiovascular and respiratory problems.

They therefore assessed 559 patients over the age of 40 who were referred to a tertiary hospital during consecutive winters in 2008-10. Some 275 of these patients had sustained a heart attack and 284 had not.

Nose and throat swabs and blood samples taken at admission and 4-6 weeks later showed that around one in eight (12.4%; 34) of the had recently had flu, compared with just under 7% (18) in the comparison group. Half of all the patients had had the flu jab that year.

Flu had not been diagnosed in around one in 10 of those who had the infection, indicating that it may be missed in with other clinical problems, say the authors.

A recent respiratory infection was more common among those patients who'd had a heart attack and doubled the risk.

But after taking account of other influential factors, such as age, , and smoking, flu did not increase . But vaccination against the infection did seem to be protective, decreasing the risk of a heart attack by 45%.

Previous research suggests that infections such as flu might encourage blood to thicken or prompt an in arteries that are already diseased, so sparking the development of a blockage.

Extending the flu vaccination programme to 50 to 64 year olds has been mooted before, but not considered to be cost effective, say the authors. However, cardiovascular disease, which causes a great deal of illness and death in older adults, wasn't taken into consideration in these estimates, they add.

"As such, even a small effect of influenza vaccination in preventing [heart attacks] may have significant population health gains," they write.

They call for the issues to be explored further, and at the very least say that doctors should be aware that flu is an underlying and poorly diagnosed condition in hospital patients and that the seems to lessen the risk of a in susceptible patients.

Explore further: Belief that flu jab really works boosts uptake among health-care workers

More information: Ischaemic heart disease, influenza and influenza vaccination: a prospective case control study, Heart, Online First DOI: 10.1136/heartjnl-2013-304320

Related Stories

Belief that flu jab really works boosts uptake among health-care workers

March 7, 2012
A belief that the seasonal flu jab really works is far more likely to sway healthcare professionals to get vaccinated than the potential to protect at risk patients from infection, finds research published in Occupational ...

Hospital-acquired influenza rare but serious

April 15, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Medical researchers urge vaccination this flu season as new research shows that hospital-acquired, or nosocomial, influenza is relatively uncommon, but can be severe.

Flu shot likely prevented 13 million illnesses, 110,000 hospitalizations from 2005-2011

June 19, 2013
Approximately 13 million illnesses and over 110,00 hospitalizations may have been averted by the flu vaccine over the last 6 years in the U.S, according to calculations published June 19 in the open access journal PLOS ONE ...

Risk of death, hospital readmission prolonged after heart attack, heart failure

May 16, 2013
Heart attack or heart failure patients may have a high risk of death or re-admission for a month or longer after leaving the hospital, researchers said at the American Heart Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Scientific ...

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.