New research shows a simple flu shot can reduce risk of Alzheimer's, heart diseases
Two different associations have pointed out the effectiveness of flu shots on brain and heart health.
The flu shot is a yearly vaccine that should be given to all children, pregnant women and the elderly as per the World Health Organisation. The vaccine protects these high-risk groups from the strains of flu that are most prevalent in the current year. However, experts suggest that the flu shot not only saves you from the seasonal influenza infection but also a number of other health conditions.
Recently, a study suggested that flu shots provide non-specific immunity which reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 in the elderly. Now, two different associations have pointed out the effectiveness of flu shots on brain and heart health.
Reports presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, 2020 suggest that both flu shots and pneumonia vaccines have the ability to reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life.
Preliminary research to be presented at the Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2020 Scientific Sessions by the American Heart Association indicates that flu shots can significantly decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrest and death in people above the age of 50 years.
Flu and pneumococcal vaccine and Alzheimer’s
Three different studies reported the role of flu, pneumococcal disease and their vaccines in the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia. All the studies are observational and the scientists studied vaccination data from various areas to come to their respective conclusions.
Pneumococcal vaccine is given to children below the age of 2 and adults above the age of 65. The vaccine provides protection against pneumococcal pneumonia caused due to a bacteria called Streptococcus pneumonia.
Here is what the studies say
Flu shots and Alzheimer’s risk: To study the link between the flu shot and Alzheimer’s risk, Albert Amran, a medical student at the University of Texas Health Science Center, and his team studied the health records of a large set of Americans.
They found that even a single flu shot can lead to a 17 percent reduction in the incidence of Alzheimer’s in a person. An additional 13 percent reduction was noted in those who got the shot more than once.
Interestingly, people who started to get their flu shots at a comparatively younger age of 60 years had more protection from Alzheimer’s than those who got their first flu shot at the age of 70.
Pneumococcal vaccine and Alzheimer’s risk: For this study, Dr Svetlana Ukraintseva, an associate research professor at the Duke University Social Science Research Institute, and her team studied the link between pneumococcal vaccine (with a flu shot or without it) and Alzheimer’s risk, in more than 5,000 people above the age of 65.
It was found that those between the ages of 65 and 75 had a 25-30% reduction in their risk of Alzheimer’s when they got a pneumococcal vaccine even when all the other parameters like age, sex and the presence of Alzheimer’s gene were adjusted.
Dementia patients are more likely to die from infections
A group of researchers in Denmark studied the data from National Health registries to study the death rate of people above the age of 65 years who came to any hospital with an infection.
The study indicated that those with dementia are 6.5 times more likely to die of infection than those who did not have dementia and the risk of mortality in dementia patients remains high even after 10 years of getting treated for an infection.
However, more studies are still needed on the link between infections and mortality rate in dementia patients to understand all the risk factors and the biological mechanisms involved.
Though this study is not directly related to the importance of a flu shot, timely vaccination may reduce the risk of infections in dementia patients and hence be able to reduce their mortality rate.
Flu shot and risk of heart conditions
As per the American Heart Association, it is well known that flu increases stress on the body which may put a person at risk of having a heart attack or developing other cardiovascular problems later.
Studying a database of seven million people, Roshni A Mandania, an MD candidate at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, US, found that flu shots can reduce risk of various cardiovascular problems in individuals aged 50 years and above to varying degrees.
- Of a heart attack by 28 percent
- Of a cardiac arrest by 85 percent
- Transient ischemic attack (stroke that lasts for a few minutes only) by 47 percent
The shot also reduced the risk of death by 73 percent.
Considering the many benefits of the flu shot, it may be more than worth it to get it if you are at high risk of the infection. As per the Serum Institute of India, you can take a flu shot any time during the flu season or as soon as it is available since flu season varies.
Read our article on Alzheimer’s disease to know more.
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