Flu vaccine could protect against serious heart and stroke complications

July 27, 2020

DALLAS, July 27, 2020 -- The rate of seasonal flu vaccinations among high-risk groups such as people over age 50 and nursing home residents is extremely low, and those who do get their flu vaccination significantly lower their cardiovascular risks for heart attack, TIA (transient ischemic attack), death and cardiac arrest, according to preliminary research to be presented July 27-30, 2020, at the virtual American Heart Association's Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2020 Scientific Sessions. The meeting is a premier global exchange of the latest advances in basic cardiovascular science including research in fields like microRNAs, cardiac gene and cell therapy, and cardiac development.

The stress the influenza infection puts on the body may increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, which researchers note is well-known.

"These groups should have the highest vaccination rates because they are the most at risk; however, our findings show the opposite - flu vaccinations are under-utilized," said Roshni A. Mandania, B.S., lead author of the study and M.D. Candidate Class of 2021 at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in El Paso, Texas. "As health care providers, we must do everything we can to ensure our most vulnerable populations are protected against the flu and its serious complications."

Using information from the 2014 National Inpatient Sample, the largest database of U.S. hospitals, researchers under the guidance of Debabrata Mukherjee, M.D., Chief of Cardiovascular Services at Texas Tech University Medical Center at El Paso, assessed the rate at which the flu vaccine was administered to patients designated by the Centers for Disease Control as high-risk (for the flu and its complications). The database includes people over age 50, HIV/AIDS patients, those residing in nursing homes and people who are obese. Researchers examined the impact of the flu vaccine on cardiovascular outcomes between patients who got vaccinated during hospitalization and those who did not.

Of more than 7 million high-risk patients hospitalized, researchers found:"The results we found are staggering. It's hard to ignore the positive effect the flu vaccine can have on serious cardiac complications," Mandania said. "Some people don't view flu vaccinations as necessary or important, and many may face barriers accessing health care including receiving the flu vaccine."

In this study, researchers assessed immunization solely in the hospital so it is possible some individuals may have received the flu vaccine in an outpatient setting. "Nevertheless, our study highlights the marked under-underutilization of flu vaccine in high-risk groups and underscores the need for a health care policy initiative to increase flu vaccinations among all patients and especially in high-risk groups," Mandania said.

According to the American Heart Association's Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, this study provides additional merit for an Association project.

"We have partnered with the American Lung Association and the American Diabetes Association to collectively deliver a message to providers and to the general public that all adults and all children, by and large, should be getting influenza vaccinations year after year. In particular, for patients who have chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes or emphysema, it is critically important to get the annual flu vaccine. The potentially serious complications of the flu are far, far greater for those with chronic diseases," said Sanchez.
-end-
Other co-authors are Arjab Ghosh, B.S.; Jennifer Ma, M.S.; Miguel Mena, B.S.; Christopher Dodoo, M.S.; Luis Alvarado, M.S.; and Alok Dwivedi, Ph.D. Author disclosures are in the abstract.

Additional Resources:

Available multimedia is on the right column of the release link - https://newsroom.heart.org/news/flu-vaccine-could-protect-against-serious-heart-and-stroke-complications?preview=ff0c270312f09cdcb52d70624f4de8b2

Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect Association policy or position. The Association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The Association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/aha-financial-information.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public's health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

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