MONDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Annual flu shots may protect against heart attacks, and the earlier in the season a shot is given the greater the protection, a new British study claims.
"The risk of getting a heart attack was reduced by 19 percent for those who had a vaccination in the past year," said A. Niroshan Siriwardena, a professor of primary and prehospital health care at the University of Lincoln.
The study, which drew some criticism from U.S. experts, was based on a review of the medical records of more than 78,000 people in England and Wales; roughly 16,000 of them were heart attack patients, and almost 8,500 of the heart attack patients had been vaccinated.
Dr. Kirk Garratt, associate director of the division of cardiac intervention at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the study found there were 19 percent fewer heart attack patients vaccinated in the previous year, not that there was a 19 percent reduction in heart attacks among the vaccinated.
If getting a flu shot could prevent 19 percent of heart attacks, it would have been noticed before now, Garratt added.
Another expert, Dr. Harlan Krumholz, director of the Yale-New Haven Hospital Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale Medical School, cited similar flaws in the finding.
Referring to previous research about heart attacks and flu vaccine, Krumholz said it was already believed that a connection existed between vaccination and heart attack prevention. But the study's claim of a 19 percent reduction in heart attacks is not justified by the data, he added.
When asked about the criticism, Siriwardena said the study looked at "the likelihood of heart attack in vaccinated and unvaccinated patients, adjusting for other risk factors for heart attack."
"We expressed our results as risk of heart attacks," Siriwardena added, rather than vaccination rates among tho
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