Flu Shots Help Heart Failure Patients Reduce Mortality Risks by 31%

Influenza infection has been associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction and exacerbation of cardiovascular conditions

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A new study on all-cause mortality rates among heart failure patients who received an influenza vaccine found that getting a ‘flu-shot’ was associated with a 31 percent decreased risk of all-cause mortality in those patients. 

And, influenza vaccinations were more effective at lowering mortality risks (51%) when administered during flu season. 

This is good news since influenza is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients diagnosed with heart failure, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

These study authors drew their data from 8 different studies published since 2000, which included a total of 82,354 patients, with an average age of 65 years old, and with heart failure. 

"There was no statistically significant difference in the rate of hospitalization among vaccinated and non-vaccinated patients with heart failure which may be due to the relatively limited number of studies," the authors wrote. 

Previously, an influenza infection had been associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction and exacerbation of chronic cardiovascular conditions. 

Because of this association and the evidence gained from this new study, the authors recommend seasonal flu vaccines for all eligible heart failure patients. 

A study previously published in JAMA in 2013 reported similar benefits were realized when comparing influenza vaccination vs placebo in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease. 

The CDC said in 2018 there are at least 2 factors that play an important role in determining the likelihood that flu vaccine will protect a person from flu illness:

  • Characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health)
  • The similarity or “match” between the flu viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against and the flu viruses spreading in the community:
    • During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating influenza viruses, it is possible that little or no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed.
    • During years when there is a good match between the flu vaccine and circulating viruses, it is possible to measure substantial benefits from flu vaccination in terms of preventing flu illness and complications.
    • However, even during years when the flu vaccine match is good, the benefits of flu vaccination will vary, depending on various factors like the characteristics of the person being vaccinated, what influenza viruses are circulating that season and even, potentially, which type of flu vaccine was used.

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While determining how well a flu vaccine works is challenging, in general, recent studies have supported the conclusion that flu vaccination benefits public health, especially when the flu vaccine is well matched to circulating flu viruses, says the CDC.

"An influenza infection is often just the beginning in the cascade of health issues in patients with chronic diseases. Systemic inflammation that occurs in the body during the influenza infection can disrupt atherosclerotic plaques that may lead to serious cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart attack," said  Natasha Gildersleeve, PharmD, Clinical Pharmacist, MTM and Immunization Specialist for Brookshire Grocery Company. 

"Flu shots may not always be 100% effective against the circulating virus strains but some protection is definitely better than none. "

"Do your heart a favor and get your flu shot every year," says Gildersleeve.  

Flu shots are available at most pharmacies in the USA.  

And vaccine discounts can be found at this page.

Influenza vaccinations can cause side effects, which should be reported to your healthcare provider or the CDC.