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Representational image of a shot | Graham Barclay | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: The annual flu vaccine may have more health benefits than previously thought, including reducing risk of Alzheimer’s and other heart diseases, reveal studies.

The flu shot is supposed to be administered to children, pregnant women and elderly people, according to World Health Organization guidelines. It protects these high-risk groups from the most prevalent strains of the flu.

However, a report presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2020 and preliminary research by the American Heart Association (AHA) have revealed that flu vaccines could also reduce risk of Alzheimer’s dementia and heart diseases.

Recently, some reports also indicated that the vaccine possibly offers protection from developing a severe Covid-19 infection.

Also read: India to make Severe Acute Respiratory Infection and Influenza-Like Illnesses notifiable

Flu and pneumonia shots linked to lower Alzheimer’s risk

According to the new research, flu and pneumonia vaccinations possibly play a role in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease — a degenerative, irreversible brain disorder.

The key takeaways from three research studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference — the world’s largest gathering of researchers from around the world focused on Alzheimer’s and other dementias — include “a 17 per cent reduction in Alzheimer’s incidence” by at least one flu vaccination, and another 13 per cent reduction by another, more frequent flu vaccination.

Moreover, the reports indicate that “vaccination against pneumonia between ages 65 and 75 reduced Alzheimer’s risk by up to 40% depending on individual genes,” and “individuals with dementia have a higher risk of dying (6-fold) after infections than those without dementia (3-fold).”

Researchers revealed that those who got the first seasonal flu vaccine at an early age benefitted more than others.

The researchers also found that the pneumonia vaccine “reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 25-30% after adjusting for sex, race, birth cohort, education, smoking, and number of G alleles (the genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s).”

The largest reduction was observed in those who did not carry the genetic risk factor, resulting in it being a “promising candidate for personalized Alzheimer’s prevention.”

Also read: Not just for flu but even BP and gynaecology — how telemedicine is filling a Covid vacuum

Flu shots and heart diseases

Flu shots have also been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.

A preliminary research presented at the virtual AHA’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2020 Scientific Sessions has revealed that regular flu vaccinations could protect against heart attack, TIA (transient ischemic attack), death and cardiac arrest.

The report notes that the “stress that influenza infection puts on the body may increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.” As a result, high-risk groups should have the highest vaccination rates, but according to the researchers “flu vaccinations are under-utilized”.

Their research revealed that “flu vaccination in high-risk patients was associated with a 28% reduced risk of heart attack, a 47% reduced risk of TIA and a 73% reduced risk of death.”

Roshni A. Mandania, B.S., lead author of the study, noted, “Our study highlights the marked under-underutilization of flu vaccine in high-risk groups and underscores the need for a health care policy initiative to increase flu vaccinations among all patients and especially in high-risk groups.”

The team has partnered with the American Lung Association and the American Diabetes Association to help spread the message to providers and the general public of the critical importance of yearly influenza vaccinations, especially for patients who have chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes or emphysema.

Also read: New drug has potential to treat heart attacks without causing blood vessel leak


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