Study says flu vaccine decreases heart attacks: medical world finds fault

Earlier this year, a British study made an attempt to link flu vaccination with a decrease in heart attacks.  Unfortunately, many U.S. based health care providers and medical experts take issues with the study and find fault with its methods.  The study was published this past September in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and at first glance, its authors present their findings in a way that makes them seem legitimate.  

“The risk of getting a heart attack was reduced by 19 percent for those who had a vaccination in the past year,’ said A. Niroshan Siriwardena, a professor of primary and prehospital health care at the University of Lincoln.”

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Certainly those results sound nice and hopeful for many. But with further research some details about the way the study was conducted will burst a few bubbles. Medical experts in the United States say that the research is flawed and doesn’t have the right information to draw the kind of conclusions being presented by the study’s author.

“Dr. Kirk Garratt, associate director of the division of cardiac intervention at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the study found there were 19 percent fewer heart attack patients vaccinated in the previous year, not that there was a 19 percent reduction in heart attacks among the vaccinated. If getting a flu shot could prevent 19 percent of heart attacks, it would have been noticed before now, Garratt added.”

While health officials do agree that there has been some speculation regarding flu vaccine’s link to lower heart attack numbers, this study simply does not present enough or accurate data that can verify those theories.  Nonetheless, consulting physicians on the study still encourage those at risk for heart disease, with heart problems or previous heart attack history to have a flu shot.

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“This study did not measure risk of heart attack in vaccinated and non-vaccinated people. It measured rates of vaccination among heart attack patients and those without heart attack.” said Garratt

The medical world believes that contracting influenza causes inflammation through the body that can have serious consequences on heart health.  Inflammation can cause the lining of the blood vessels to change an allow for more fatty deposits, which can later loosen and break free in the form of a clot–landing in the heart or other organs causing extreme damage or even death.

For this reason, health care providers try to find any way to help reduce inflammation whether its by reducing the chance of getting it with a flu shot, or another theoretical methods–like fish oil supplements. (Which are yet to impress the medical world in their ability to reduce heart disease.) In theory, both of these methods should do the same thing and if we based our care on this study we might as well just take the fish oil and save ourselves the shot–it would be just about as reliable.

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