Reduced Risk of Stroke is Another Reason to Get the Flu Vaccine

A recent study suggests a potential benefit from vaccination: a decreased risk of stroke, which is timely as flu season approaches.

Nearly 86,000 middle-aged and older persons were studied in Spain, and it was discovered that those who had their annual flu shot were less likely to experience an ischemic stroke the following year.

The majority of strokes are ischemic strokes, which are brought on by blood clots that reduce blood supply to the brain.

The risk reduction associated with the flu shot was not significant: on average, those who received the vaccine were 12% less likely to experience a stroke than those who did not.

Dr. Francisco Jose de Abajo, a senior researcher, drew attention to the larger context, saying that a huge number of people globally get the flu shot each year and suffer a stroke.

De Abajo, a professor at the University of Alcalá in Madrid, stated that even a minor protective effect from immunisation could result in a sizable reduction in strokes.

However, that is assuming that the flu shot actually reduces the risk of stroke.

The most recent research, released on September 7 in the journal Neurology, does not support that. Only a link between the flu shot and a lower incidence of stroke is demonstrated.

De Abajo claimed that it is challenging to take into account all the variations between those who receive an annual flu vaccination and those who do not. For instance, those who receive the recommended vaccines are more likely to practise other healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating better, exercising, or taking medicine to manage diseases like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

However, researchers took into account the differences they could, such as body weight, smoking, and long-term medical issues. Vaccination against the flu is associated with a decreased incidence of stroke.

They also investigated whether those who had the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against pneumonia, had a lower risk of stroke. They did not, it turned out.

According to Dr. Mitchell Elkind, a professor of neurology at Columbia University in New York City, this is one of the study’s advantages. He co-wrote an editorial that was included in the study.

Elkind argued that if receiving a flu shot is only a sign of improved health or a higher level of health consciousness, other vaccinations should also be associated with a decreased risk of stroke.

Why does getting the flu vaccination prevent strokes?

According to de Abajo, it is well recognised that flu infections might momentarily increase the risk of stroke in susceptible individuals. Therefore, in theory, a vaccine that reduces the risk of the flu would also reduce the risk of some strokes.

But the experts speculated that there might be more going on as well.

The research discovered that following vaccination, stroke risk decreased within two to one month. And the benefit became apparent between September and the yearly flu surge, during the “pre-epidemic” period. People would be receiving their flu vaccines at that time, but the virus would not yet be widely spread.

Elkind suggested that it’s feasible for the vaccination to lessen inflammation or have other advantageous impacts on blood vessels. But, he added, additional study is necessary to provide an answer to those queries.

The results are based on medical information from persons aged 40 to 99 who were included in a Spanish primary care database. 14,322 of them experienced their first ischemic stroke in the course of 14 years. Each of them was compared by the researchers to five stroke-free patients who were the same age and sex.

About 40% of patients in both patient groups received a flu vaccination, which Elkind said indicates there is still much opportunity for improvement.

The flu shot “The flu shot is not 100% effective,” he remarked, “but it’s pretty darn good.”

Elkind added that while immunisation can not completely prevent illness, it can lessen the severity of the flu. Severe flu complications are more likely in people with a history of stroke or other stroke risk factors.

Elkind stated that the new data provide even greater justification for getting the flu shot.

De Abajo concurred.

He stated, “We hope that studies like ours will contribute to raise public understanding of the advantages of vaccination.

It is unknown if receiving a COVID immunisation can prevent strokes. But COVID is known to encourage blood clotting and raise the risk of stroke, Elkind said. According to studies, 1% to 2% of infected patients who are hospitalised also get a stroke.

According to a recent Korean study, those who had received the complete course of vaccination were less likely than those who hadn’t had it to get a stroke or heart attack if they developed COVID-19.

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