Research reported by the University Health Network (UHN) suggests that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of stroke or heart attack by more than 50% among patients who have sustained a heart attack. The study, which appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reportedly reviewed six clinical trials focused on heart health in individuals who received the flu vaccine. Researchers note that the trials encompassed more than 6,700 patients with a history of heart disease. The results suggest that patients who received the flu vaccine exhibited a 36% lower risk of major cardiac event such as heart attack, stroke, or heart failure, one year later.
The results also indicate that these patients also had a 55% lower risk of a major cardiac event if they had sustained a recent heart attack. The patients were also less likely to expire from cardiac-related and other causes, and less likely to have a major cardiac event with a more potent vaccine when compared to the standard seasonal vaccine.
While the study results are promising, study leader Jacob Udell, MD, cardiologist, Women’s College Hospital, and clinician-scientist at the University of Toronto, and senior co-author Michael Farkouh, MD, MSc, FACC, chair and director of the Peter Munk Center of Excellence in Multinational Clinical Trials, note that a large prospective clinical trial is needed in order to confirm the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine as a therapy to reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack in heart disease patients.
Farkouh adds that the researchers aim to, “build on this research with a definitive, international trial to conclusively determine whether the flu shot prevents heart attacks.”
A news release from UHN also emphasizes that if the prevention method is proven safe, it could hold significant implications for patients at risk of stroke and heart disease.