Flu vaccine could lower risk of heart attack

With flu season on the horizon, the importance of getting vaccinated is starting to come back into the spotlight, and new research suggests that seniors may be doing more than protecting themselves against the virus should they get the shot. Scientists from the University of New South Wales in Australia found that the flu vaccine could reduce the risk of heart attack by as much as 45 percent, according to findings published in the journal Heart.

The study relied on an analysis of the health records of more than 500 people. Specifically, researchers compared 275 patients hospitalized for heart attack to 284 who were treated in an outpatient clinic. Experts found that respiratory-tract infections doubled the risk of heart attack, which might be an indication that the flu vaccine could have a significant impact on cardiovascular well-being. 

"We know that every flu season, heart attacks increase," Raina MacIntyre, the study's first author, told Bloomberg. "To me, it's fairly convincing evidence that flu vaccine can protect against heart attack in people who already have diseased arteries."

Even if seniors aren't at a high risk for heart attack, it's important for them to get a flu shot each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults 65 and older account for about 90 percent of hospitalizations due to the flu.