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Flu Shots Reduce Risk of Death from Heart Conditions

Doctors Urged to Give Flu Shots to Cardiac Patients

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Updated November 13, 2011

If you have heart disease, get your flu shot this year and every year.

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) have issued guidelines strongly recommending annual flu shots for all patients with cardiovascular disease.

Guidelines issued by professional organizations are often criticized as being self-serving. But in this case (since cardiologists generally don't administer flu shots themselves) even cynics will have a hard time brushing off these recommendations.

The recommendation that all cardiac patients have flu shots stems from several studies, that began appearing several years ago, showing the benefits of flu vaccine in cardiac patients.

In some reports, the risk of cardiovascular mortality was reduced as much as 50% in cardiac patients receiving flu shots, leading the AHA/ACC in an advisory to recommend vaccination "with the same enthusiasm as cholesterol and blood-pressure control."

The reduction in deaths is due not only to preventing the increased death rate that the flu itself has in those with cardiovascular disease, but also in preventing flu-triggered heart attacks.

While the AHA/ACC guidelines on influenza vaccine are commendable, keep in mind that it often takes 5 to 10 years for formal guidelines such as these to penetrate down to the average doctor. Don't wait: If you've got heart disease take the initiative yourself, and get a flu shot.

Sources:

Davis MM, Taubert K, Benin AL, et al. Influenza vaccination as secondary prevention for cardiovascular diseased. A science advisory from the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology. Circulation2006; 114: 1549-1553.

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