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Flu vaccine may prevent heart attacks, strokes

October 24, 2013

There are still a few months until flu season is at its peak, but many seniors have likely received their vaccinations in recent weeks in an effort to stave off the common virus. It's no secret that the popular shot can have a significant impact on healthy aging, but new research shows just how true that is. A study conducted by experts at the University of Toronto revealed that older adults who get the flu shot also experience a decreased risk of both heart attack and stroke, according to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study relied on an analysis of several previously conducted trials on heart health and the flu vaccine involving more than 6,700 people. Based on the data, researchers found that people who had the flu shot were about 36 percent less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or heart failure one year later. The results were even more substantial among those who had already had a heart attack - they saw a 55 percent lower risk of such an incident. 

"Hundreds of thousands of people die each year from cardiac causes in North America," said lead researcher Jacob Udell. "While preventative care involves lifestyle changes and taking your pills, now, we may also be able to tell patients by getting your flu shot, it might save your life - what a simple and significant way to reduce deaths and the burden on our healthcare system."

Aside from lowering the risk of cardiovascular incidents, the flu vaccine is especially important given that seniors are often at a greater risk for complications due to the illness. Last year, people 65 and older died from the flu at a rate of 116 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.