According to a new observational study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, there may be a greater risk to getting your flu shot that goes beyond protection against the virus.
Research found that people who got the flu shot were less likely to have a stroke. Specifically, the study focused on ischemic stroke, which “accounts for about 87% of all strokes,” according to the American Heart Association, and occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked.
The 14-year study took place in Spain and followed 14,322 people with stroke. Each person was compared to five people who had never had a stroke of the same age and gender. All study subjects were between 40 and 99 years of age.
The researchers compared the date of the stroke to the date of the flu shot to see if the participants had received their vaccinations at least 14 days before the stroke. They also observed this time frame in people who had not had a stroke.
About 41.4% of people who had a stroke during the study period got a flu shot, compared to 40.5% of people who did not have a stroke. Although, After adjusting for issues such as vascular conditions (People in the vaccinated group tended to have more stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol), it found that those who got their annual flu shot were 12% less likely to have a stroke than those who didn’t get the vaccine.
Experts aren’t entirely sure why your flu shot may reduce your risk of stroke.
The exact reasoning behind this positive result is not yet clear, but researchers have some theories. Study author Dr. Francisco José de Abajo told Medical News Today that “At this stage, we can only speculate about the mechanism, but there are several pieces of evidence from previous studies … which suggest that flu vaccination is necessary. May reduce inflammation mediators.”
And according to the American Heart Association, “systemic markers of inflammation have been shown to be risk markers for stroke.” So, the reduction in inflammation may be the reason behind the reduction in stroke risk in the study participants.
Additionally, not all vaccines reduce the risk of stroke—the pneumonia vaccine did not have the same effect, the researchers found, which leads them to believe there is an association between the flu vaccine and a lower risk of stroke.
That said, the new study has some limitations. This was observational and did not take into account other factors such as diet and exercise in the study subjects’ daily lives. Fitness, a nutritious diet and a healthy weight all contribute to a lower risk of stroke. It is possible that people who are more likely to get the vaccine are practicing good health practices in other areas as well.
Either way, it’s important to get your flu shot.
The flu shot is an important way to protect yourself and those around you from the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu kills tens of thousands of people each year and infects more than 900,000 people annually.
While many people can fight off the virus, it is a very risky disease for elderly people, young children, and people with illnesses such as asthma and COPD, says Dr. Burt E., a vaccine specialist with the National Hispanic Medical Association. Johansson told earlier. HuffPost.
By getting the flu shot, you’re reducing your risk of developing the virus, protecting your loved ones — and possibly even reducing your risk of stroke.
“These results are another reason for people to get their annual flu shot, especially if they are at increased risk of stroke,” de Abajo said in a statement. “To be able to reduce the risk of stroke by taking such simple action is very tempting.”