Heart failure risks reduced with regular flu shots
Healthcare professionals and doctors often recommend an annual flu vaccination before flu season begins. This is a cost-effective way of reducing flu-related deaths and health complications, especially for patients with a history of heart disease and stroke. Influenza can be fatal for patients with heart failure as they are often older than 65 years, have compromised circulation as well as other health problems, and a flu infection can exacerbate symptoms of heart failure. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark wanted to investigate the impact of a single flu vaccination on the survival of heart failure patients.
Getting vaccinated annually following a heart failure diagnosis was associated with a 19 per cent reduction in all-cause death as well as in cardiovascular death when compared to no vaccination.
The researchers analysed data from 134,048 patients aged over 18 years and diagnosed with heart failure in Denmark from 2003 and 2015. The researchers collected linked data using nationwide registries which included vaccination status, number and frequency during follow-up.
The researchers found the flu vaccination rate in 2003 was 16 per cent while the rate in 2015 was 52 per cent, with a peak rate in 2009 at 54 per cent. After accounting for other factors such as medication, income, education and other health conditions, the researchers found that the flu vaccination was associated with an 18 per cent reduced risk of premature death. Getting vaccinated annually following a heart failure diagnosis was associated with a 19 per cent reduction in all-cause death as well as in cardiovascular death when compared to no vaccination. The analysis also found that the frequency of vaccination made a difference and that getting a flu shot less than once a year was associated with a 13 per cent reduced risk of all-cause death and an 8 per cent reduced risk of cardiovascular death when compared to not getting any flu shots. Timing of the flu shots also made a difference. When vaccinations were taken earlier in the flu season (during September and October for the northern hemisphere) versus later in the season (November and December), there was a greater reduction in all-cause death and cardiovascular death.
The findings of this study provide vital insights for doctors and healthcare professionals who are treating patients with a history of heart failure. They can include influenza vaccinations as standard treatment to reduce the risk of associated death and other health complications that can be exacerbated with the flu.
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