By their very definition, flu shots are designed to immunize people against the flu. But a growing body of research suggests they might help prevent another deadly condition — a heart attack. The latest research, from Australia, found that hospital patients who had not received a flu vaccination were roughly twice as likely to have AMI (or acute myocardial infarction) symptoms than those who had received an influenza vaccination.
This mirrors other studies in recent years. In 2012, one Canadian researcher reported that flu vaccines reduced the risk of major cardiovascular events by 48 percent. Furthermore, another recent study showed that more than 60 percent of heart attack victims had a recent respiratory illness. Such illnesses are known to raise levels of hs-CRP, highly-sensitive or “heart –specific” C-reactive protein, or CRP. This protein is a marker for inflammation and when plaque in the arteries becomes inflamed and oxidized, it breaks off and results in heart attack or stroke or other embolism phenomena, with dire consequences.
For this reason, vaccination against flu, pneumonia, diphtheria —tetanus-pertussis (dTaP) are all recommended for those age 65 and above or with comorbidities such as diabetes or lung or heart disease. The dTaP is actually offered as a booster earlier in adulthood since childhood vaccines have usually worn off by age 40. It is a one-time vaccination and is extremely important now since pertussis, (whooping cough) is back in the U.S. in epidemic proportions. Fluvax can be administered to anyone and is especially important in elderly and those involved in medical care or childcare. The shingles vaccine, or “zoster vax,” is a one-time vaccination that cuts the risk of shingles by about 50%, but decrease risk of post-herpetic neuralgia by 63%. All of these vaccinations are available in my office and most are covered completely by insurance or Medicare.
This would be an excellent time to dispel a persistent myth: that flu shots are inherently dangerous and should be avoided. That is absolutely not true, and it’s puzzling how certain aspects of this myth persist despite the evidence. For example, the notion that flu shots have been linked to autism spectrum disorders in children is based on the fraudulent claims of a British doctor in a study years ago that has long since been thoroughly discredited. The real danger lies in not getting a flu vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 30 years of U.S. records, from the mid-1970s through the 2006-2007 flu season, and found an average of 23,607 deaths per year from flu-related causes.