SUNDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Getting a flu shot may help people stay healthy in more than the obvious way, new research suggests.
"The shot doesn't just protect you against flu, it protects you from heart attacks," said Dr. Jacob Udell, a cardiologist at Women's College Hospital and the University of Toronto.
In his research, Udell found that those who got a flu shot reduced their risk of heart attacks and other serious cardiovascular problems by nearly half during a one-year follow-up period.
He was scheduled to present his findings Sunday at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto.
Udell and his team re-evaluated the results of four randomized trials that looked at how the influenza vaccine might help heart health. In all, the studies had more than 3,200 patients. The original studies were done from 1994 to 2008.
Some of the people in the trials were free of heart disease, while others either had stable cardiovascular disease or had recently had heart attacks or other coronary problems.
All groups were followed for median of a year. Those who got the flu vaccine had about a 50 percent reduction in heart attack, stroke or other major cardiovascular events.
During the follow-up, nearly 200 major cardiovascular events were reported, including 65 deaths related to cardiovascular issues.
The research was not funded by vaccine developers.
Udell said experts don't know for sure why the flu vaccine may be heart-protective, but offered two possible explanations.
First, he said, the vaccine may protect vulnerable patients already in poor health from one more illness that could "dip them over the edge." Second, the protection may come from avoiding the inflammation associated with getting the flu, he said. Inflammation has long been linked to cardiovascular problems.
Whichever way it might work, he said, "it certainl
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