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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Flu Shot Lowers Death Risk for Heart Disease Patients: 01/06/2014

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Here is what's new this week in MedlinePlus.listen

Heart disease patients significantly lower their risk of death if they receive an annual flu vaccine, suggests a comprehensive review of previous clinical trials recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The meta-analysis, which assessed five clinical trials that randomized 6,400 heart disease participants into groups that did and did not receive a flu shot, also suggests the risk of a cardiovascular event declines significantly among adults who suffered a recent heart attack or chest pain.

Specifically, a flu shot decreased the relative risk of a serious cardiovascular event (such as a second heart attack) by 55 percent for adults who had a heart attack within a year before receiving the vaccine. For adult heart disease patients who had not suffered a recent cardiovascular event (such as a heart attack), a flu shot decreased their relative risk of a serious cardiovascular event by 36 percent.

For all heart disease trial participants (regardless of disease level), an annual flu shot decreased their relative risk of death by almost 20 percent. In other words, the risk of dying from heart disease was nearly 20 percent lower for cardiovascular patients who received the flu vaccine compared to those who skipped the shot.

The study’s 11 authors noted all five clinical trials reported similar results; the benefits of flu shots for heart disease participants were consistent.

To look at the findings a different way, an editorial that accompanied the study noted the meta-analysis suggests about two major cardiovascular events (such as a heart attack or stroke) are prevented among every 100 heart disease patients who receive a flu shot.

The study’s 11 authors suggest the findings underscore the health benefits offered by flu vaccines for heart disease patients --and provide an antidote to persons who are skeptical about the preventive advantages of some vaccinations.

Jacob A. Udell M.D., a cardiologist at the University of Toronto and the study’s first author, told the New York Times (and we quote): “People who don’t like vaccines probably don’t like dying from heart attacks either. Maybe this (study) is a good enough reason for the skeptics to go and get their flu shots” (end of quote).

Meanwhile, MedlinePlus.gov’s flu health topic page provides an overview of key facts about the flu and flu vaccine (from the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention - the CDC) in the ‘overviews’ section.

The CDC also provides information about the flu, heart disease, and stroke in the ‘related issues’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s flu health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov’s flu health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about the flu and flu vaccines as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

MedlinePlus.gov additionally has a health topic page devoted to heart disease prevention which contains information about widely used clinical interventions as well as a variety of lifestyle strategies to promote heart health, including exercise, nutrition, dieting, counseling, red wine, folic acid and aspirin therapy.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s flu health topic page, type ‘flu’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘flu (National Library of Medicine).’ To find MedlinePlus.gov’s heart disease prevention health topic page, type ‘heart disease prevention’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘heart diseases-prevention (National Library of Medicine).’

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

I want to take the opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday season and a healthy New Year. The National Library of Medicine and the ‘Director’s Comments’ podcast staff, including Dr. Lindberg, appreciate your interest and company — and we hope to find new ways to serve you in 2014.