Research has shown that up to 91,000 Americans die from heart attacks and strokes caused by flu every year, yet less than half of those with high-risk heart conditions get flu shots.
Recent studies at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress say that flu shots can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke by as much as 50 percent.
Yahoo! Health reported that scientists looked at 3,227 patients, average age 60, half of whom had been diagnosed with heart disease. Participants received either a flu shot or a placebo, and their health was studied for 12 months. Results saw the patients getting the flu shot as 50 percent less likely to suffer cardiac events, and 40 percent were less likely to die from them.
Dr. Jacob Udell of the University of Toronto suggested that some factor "tips them over the edge" when people develop heart disease, such as plaque clogging their arteries, or lower levels of oxygen caused by the flu.
Receiving the flu shot may prevent the person from contracting the flu, or break up plaque in their arteries. “Either one is very provocative, and it's important to drill down and get the answer,” Udell said, according to Fox News.
Others said the flu vaccine could reduce blood vessel inflammation, which can cause a heart attack. But Udell said not enough Americans are getting the shot.
"The use of the vaccine is less than 50 per cent of the general population; it's even poorly used among health care workers," he said, according to Science Daily. "Imagine if this vaccine could also be a proven way to prevent heart disease."
The Department of Health & Human Services says it is especially important for seniors to get flu shots. Ninety percent of deaths related to flu and more than 50 percent of its hospitalizations happen in those aged 65 and over, according to Sunrise Senior Living.
MayoClinic.com reports that the flu causes more than 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations each year in the U.S., according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.