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Jan 10, 2019

Flu Vaccination Boosts Survival for Patients with Heart Failure

The flu shot reduced risk of death by 18% in patients with heart failure, Danish study finds.

Getting the flu vaccine could be life saving for patients with heart failure, based on a recent study that found the flu vaccine reduces risk of death by 18% in heart failure patients, with even greater benefits in patients who got the flu shot regularly.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this study compared survival rates among heart failure patients with and without the flu vaccine. It included more than 134,000 Danish adults, all of who were diagnosed with heart failure between 2003 and 2015 and part of the national patient registry in Denmark.

The goal of the study was to see whether the flu shot—which can help prevent or lessen the effects of the flu—boosts heart failure survival.

Heart failure is a chronic condition that occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Since patients with heart failure already have compromised health, the flu can be especially dangerous when contracted. Studies suggest that the flu vaccine can help prevent life-threatening complications in vulnerable populations.

To help explore the benefits of the flu vaccine, researchers tracked participants’ health, vaccinations and survival for up to seven years. During this time, flu vaccination rates ranged anywhere from 16–54% each year.

After taking into account factors like age, income and health, researchers found that receiving at least one flu vaccination during the study period reduced risk of death by 18%. However, benefits were even greater in patients who got the flu vaccine each year. Risk reductions were also greater in participants who got the vaccination earlier in the year (September and October) compared with later in the flu season.

What findings show, according to authors, is the importance of the flu vaccine in patients with heart failure. Organizations like the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association already encourage the flu vaccine in patients with heart failure. This study confirms that getting the flu shot could be lifesaving for heart failure patients.

Of course, it’s always important to consult your doctor to ensure that getting the flu shot is right for you. But chances are, getting vaccinated each year before flu season is here can help reduce your chances of getting the flu. For patients with heart failure, it may also reduce risk of complications and improve long-term survival.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Should I get a flu shot?
  • Beginning in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a recommendation that everyone get vaccinated against the flu virus. The flu shot (injected by needle, usually in arm) is safe for most adults and children older than 6 months, including people with heart disease. It is especially important for groups at high risk for flu-related complications. These include:

    • Pregnant women
    • Children younger than age 5, especially children under than 2 years old
    • People age 50 and older
    • People of any age with chronic medical conditions
    • People who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities
    • People who live with or care for people at high risk of flu complications. This includes:
      • Health care workers
      • People who live in households with people at high risk
      • Caregivers of children younger than 6 month old

    Another type of the flu vaccine is given as a nasal spray. This vaccine is recommended only for healthy individuals between the ages of 2 and 49 years old who are not pregnant. The nasal spray is not advised for people with heart disease or other chronic conditions because it uses a live form of the virus. You should always talk to your doctor before getting vaccinated.

  • What is heart failure?

  • Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Although there is no cure for heart failure, treatments such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs can help improve outcomes as well as quality of life.

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