Toronto: Getting a flu shot can cut risk of heart disease by 50 per cent and cardiac deaths by 40 per cent, a new study has claimed.
Toronto-based researchers found that the influenza vaccine could be an important form of treatment for maintaining heart health and warding off cardiovascular events like strokes and heart attacks.
Dr Jacob Udell, a cardiologist at Women's College Hospital and the University of Toronto, and colleagues looked at published clinical trials on this subject, dating back to the 1960s.
"For those who had the flu shot, there was a pretty strong risk reduction," Udell said.
The flu vaccine provided an approximate 50 per cent reduction in the risk of a major cardiac event (heart attack, stroke, or cardiac death) compared with placebo after one year of follow-up.
A similar trend was seen for the flu vaccine reducing death from any cause (approximately 40 per cent).
The influenza vaccine reduced cardiovascular events and cardiovascular death in people with or without heart disease.
The combined studies examined a total of 3,227 patients, with an almost equal split between patients with and without established heart disease.
Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive flu vaccine and those that did not typically received a placebo vaccine.
Udell said these results provide support for current guideline recommendations for influenza vaccination of individuals with a prior heart attack, but for a different reason than simply reducing flu risk.
Although it was encouraging to see a reduction in non-fatal cardiac events, Udell said a large, lengthier multi-national study would comprehensively demonstrate the vaccine's effectiveness to reduce fatal cardiac events and save lives.
"The use of the vaccine is still much too low, less than 50 per cent of the general population; it's even poorly used among health care workers. Imagine if this vaccine could also be a proven way to prevent heart disease," Udell said in a statement.
The study was presented at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.