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Getting a flu shot may not only protect you from getting sick, it might also prevent heart disease.
A Toronto-based researcher presented a study at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress which found that the influenza vaccine could be an important treatment for maintaining heart health and warding off cardiovascular events like strokes and heart attacks.
Dr. Jacob Udell, a cardiologist at Women's College Hospital and the University of Toronto, says he and his team looked at published clinical trials on this subject, dating back to the 1960s.
The team claims the flu vaccine provided an approximate 50% reduction in the risk of a major cardiac event - heart attack, stroke, or cardiac death - compared with placebo after one year of follow-up.
Udell says the results support current recommendations for influenza vaccination for people who've experienced a heart attack, but for a different reason than simply reducing flu risk.
And although it was encouraging to see a reduction in non-fatal cardiac events, he believes a large, lengthier multi-national study would comprehensively demonstrate the vaccine's effectiveness to reduce fatal cardiac events and save lives.
"A large study that was international in scope and representative of patients such as those in North America and Canada in particular could help answer this question," he said.
Udell's team believes their research could also potentially boost use of the vaccine, which he believes is still "woefully low.
"The use of the vaccine is still much too low, less than 50% of the general population; it's even poorly used among health care workers," he says. "Imagine if this vaccine could also be a proven way to prevent heart disease."
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