A study published in Neurology suggests that receiving a flu vaccine may reduce the risk of stroke. Researchers analyzed a health care database of nearly 3 million people in Spain over a 14-year period and identified 14,322 individuals who were at least 40 years old and had experienced an ischemic stroke, as well as 71,610 control subjects. After adjusting for age, sex, and risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the study authors found that those who had received a flu shot were 10 to 15 percent less likely to have a first stroke compared to those who had not been vaccinated.
It is important to note that this was an observational study, and did not test whether the flu vaccine directly protects against stroke. However, the finding provides an additional reason to get vaccinated as the flu can cause severe illness and has been linked to an increased risk of stroke. The mechanism behind how a flu shot could prevent strokes is not entirely clear, but the benefit was observed even outside of flu season, suggesting that the vaccine may prevent or reduce inflammation, a risk factor for stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Flu season in the United States typically peaks in January and February, but cases can be reported well into spring. It is therefore not too late to get vaccinated if you have not done so already. People aged 65 and older, who are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications due to underlying chronic conditions and a weakened immune response, are advised to request a high-dose vaccine if available, or take what is available for at least some protection.
What is a Flu Vaccine?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and in some cases, can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated. The flu vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect against the flu virus. It works by helping the body develop immunity to the virus.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone aged six months and older, especially for those who are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu, such as young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions. The vaccine is typically available in two forms: a shot or a nasal spray. The shot is an inactivated vaccine, which means it does not contain live flu viruses. The nasal spray is a live attenuated vaccine, which means it contains weakened flu viruses that cannot cause the flu. It is important to note that the nasal spray is not recommended for certain groups of people, such as pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.