Flu shots could be beneficial to patients with heart failure

Photo (c) Michail Petrov - Fotolia

Researchers suggest the shot could be life-saving

Getting a flu shot has become pretty standard procedure for many consumers, as it’s a quick and easy way to prevent the flu and its associated health risks -- particularly during the cold winter months.

Though the flu shot can benefit anyone, new research shows why patients with heart failure should ensure they’re vaccinated.

Researchers, led by Daniel Modin of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, explored the ways patients with newly-diagnosed heart failure responded to the flu shot and found that there were countless health benefits.

“Recent studies have indicated that the influenza vaccination coverage of patients with heart failure is inadequate,” said Modin. “I hope that our study can assist in making physicians and cardiologists who care for patients with heart failure aware of how important influenza vaccination is for their patients. Influenza vaccination may be regarded as a standard treatment in heart failure similar to medications.”

Key findings

The researchers studied medical data for over 134,000 patients who were diagnosed with heart failure over the course of 12 years. The study started in 2003, when 16 percent of the participants were getting a flu shot; it ended in 2015, when 52 percent received the shot.

The researchers were most curious as to how the flu shot affected the mortality of patients with new cases of heart failure.

For starters, they found that getting vaccinated early proved to be beneficial for participants. The risk of death decreased when patients were vaccinated earlier during flu season, as opposed to during the heart of flu season.

Perhaps the most significant finding was that the risk of premature death decreased by 18 percent for those who received a flu shot, regardless of any other health complications.

For yearly flu shot recipients, the risk of death -- both heart-related and otherwise -- decreased. Getting a flu shot on a regular basis reduced cardiovascular deaths by eight percent, and all deaths by 13 percent.

The results also proved to hold up over the long term, and showing that flu shot continued to be effective over time. Patients who received flu shots each year following a heart failure diagnosis reduced their risk of death by 19 percent, compared with those who didn’t get a flu shot at all.

Though Modin notes that the study focuses solely on heart failure patients who are newly diagnosed, he’s confident that the flu shot would be beneficial for anyone suffering with heart disease.

Importance of getting vaccinated

Though many parents may be skeptical about having their child get the flu shot, following last year’s high-severity flu season, it can be critical -- especially for those with compromised immune systems.

Earlier this fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned consumers that they should get vaccinated early in preparation for the heart of flu season. During last flu season, 180 children died from the sickness, and 80 percent of them weren’t vaccinated. Additionally, over 700,000 people landed in the hospital from the flu.

The CDC says that the flu shot is “the best way reduce your risk of getting sick with seasonal flu and spreading it to others.”

Not long after that warning, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urged that all children six months and older receive the flu as early as possible.

“The flu virus is common -- and unpredictable,” said Dr. Flor Munoz. “It can cause serious complications even in healthy children. Being immunized reduces the risk of a child being hospitalized due to flu.”

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