Flu shot may cut risk of heart attack, too
October 23, 2013 10:01AM
Vaccinate Illinois Week, Dec. 8-14, is a statewide observance focused on educating the public about the importance of flu vaccines during the fall and winter months. | AP file
TORONTO — Getting a flu shot cuts the risk of having a heart attack or stroke by more than 50 percent in people who have had a heart attack, a new study shows.
“We may have identified that the flu vaccine may also be a vaccine against heart attacks,” says lead author Jacob Udell, a cardiologist at Women’s College Hospital and a scientist at the University of Toronto.
So why does the flu shot help?
There are a couple theories. One is the “vulnerable plaque theory” — that inflammation caused by the flu may turn a stable plaque into an unstable plaque and cause a cardiac event.
Plaque is the result of a buildup in the lining of the arteries of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium and fibrin (a clotting material in the blood).
Another is the “vulnerable patient theory.” That suggests that the side effects from the flu, such as coughing, low oxygen, low blood pressure, fast heart rate and possible pneumonia, may strain the heart and cause a cardiac event.