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Colds and flu

02 September 2019

Got high blood pressure? Get your flu shot

Recent research has found that avoiding getting the flu through vaccination can relieve the stress that heart attacks and strokes put on the body.

If you have high blood pressure, getting a flu shot could save your life, researchers say.

A new study found that patients with high blood pressure who got a flu shot had a nearly 18% lower risk of dying during flu season.

Previous research has found that the stress flu puts on the body may trigger heart attacks and strokes. Patients with high blood pressure already are at increased risk for both.

For the study, researchers analysed data from Denmark on more than 608 000 people, aged 18 to 100, with high blood pressure during nine flu seasons, from 2007 to 2016.

The investigators looked at how many patients got a flu shot before each flu season and how many died.

After adjusting for patient characteristics – such as age, health problems and medications – in a given flu season, flu vaccination was associated with an 18% lower risk of death from any cause; a 16% lower risk of death from any cardiovascular cause; and a 10% lower risk of death from heart attack or stroke.

Safe, cheap and readily available

The findings were to be presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), in Paris. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"Given these results, it is my belief that all patients with high blood pressure should have an annual flu vaccination," said first author Daniel Modin, a research associate at the University of Copenhagen. "Vaccination is safe, cheap, readily available and decreases influenza infection. On top of that, our study suggests that it could also protect against fatal heart attacks and strokes, and deaths from other causes."

Modin noted that during the nine flu seasons studied, vaccine coverage ranged from 26% to 36%, meaning that many patients with high blood pressure were unprotected.

"If you have high blood pressure, it would be worth discussing vaccination with your doctor," Modin said in an ESC news release.

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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