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Getting a flu shot lowers the risk of stroke years later, study shows

Getting a flu shot lowers the risk of stroke years later, study shows

Getting a flu shot lowers the risk of stroke years later, study shows

  • Getting the flu shot reduced the risk of stroke by more than 20 percent
  • Influenza infection is believed to increase a person’s chance of having a stroke
  • Widespread influenza vaccination may be a viable public health strategy for stroke prevention

Getting the flu shot may be more important than ever — a study shows it also lowers the risk of stroke years later.

Researchers say health officials should do more to ensure that everyone gets routine flu shots, not just the most vulnerable.

The study analyzed the health records of more than 4 million adults in Alberta, Canadain a period of 10 years.

The results showed that people who were vaccinated against the flu once a year or every flu season over a 10-year period reduced their risk of stroke by more than a fifth on average.

The protective effect was even stronger in men and younger people.

The researchers did not specifically investigate why the flu shot significantly reduced the risk, but the ruling hypothesis is simple.

The vaccine reduces the risk of catching and getting the flu, which is a known risk factor for stroke.

Getting the flu shot may be more important than ever ¿ a study shows it also reduces the risk of stroke years later

Getting the flu shot may be more important than ever — a study shows it also lowers the risk of stroke years later

People who received the flu shot once a year or every flu season over a 10-year period reduced their risk of stroke by about 23 percent in individuals of all adult ages

People who received the flu shot once a year or every flu season over a 10-year period reduced their risk of stroke by about 23 percent in individuals of all adult ages

CAUSES OF STROKE

There are two main types of stroke:

1. ISCHEMIC STROKE

Ischemic stroke – which accounts for 80 percent of strokes – occurs when a blood vessel becomes blocked, preventing blood from reaching a part of the brain.

2. HEMORRHAGIC BRAIN

Less commonly, a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts, flooding part of the brain with too much blood and depriving other areas of adequate blood supply.

It can be the result of an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation (abnormal collection of blood vessels) in the brain.

Thirty percent of patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage die before reaching the hospital. Another 25 percent die within 24 hours. And 40 percent of survivors die within a week.

RISK FACTORS

Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, family history, and history of previous stroke or TIA (mini stroke) are risk factors for stroke.

SYMPTOMS OF CEREBRA

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden vision problems or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

OUTCOMES

Of the approximately three out of four people who survive a stroke, many will have lifelong disabilities.

These include difficulty walking, communicating, eating, and performing daily tasks or chores.

TREATMENT

Both are potentially fatal, and patients need surgery or a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) within three hours to save them.

Lead study author Dr. Michael Hill of the University of Calgary said: ‘We wanted to find out if the vaccine had the same protective qualities for those at risk of stroke.

‘Our findings show that the risk of stroke is lower in people who have recently received the flu vaccine. This was true for all adults, not just those at high risk of stroke.’

Researchers reviewed patient records using administrative data from Alberta’s publicly funded health insurance plan.

It’s the largest study of flu shots and stroke risk to date, scientists say.

The overall risk reduction was about 23 percent in individuals of all adult ages, men and women.

But the decline was greater among men than among women – 28 percent versus 17 percent – and sharpest among young people.

The researchers believe that the lower relative risk reduction in the elderly may be related to a reduced biological response to vaccination in older age.

The immune response to vaccination is reduced in the elderly compared to young, healthy adults.

Older people also have an increased risk of stroke.

Previous research suggests that catching and getting sick with the flu can increase the risk of stroke and other heart problems.

Scientists point out that when the number of flu cases increases, the number of stroke cases usually increases three weeks later.

They think the immune response to the flu thickens the blood and inflames the arteries, leaving people more prone to clots.

“There’s a long history between infections and stroke — upper respiratory tract infections are associated with stroke — so it was kind of natural for us to start looking at this,” Dr. Hill said.

‘There is a link between influenza and myocardial infarctions – heart attacks – so drawing the links with stroke was a natural next step.’

The study was published earlier this week in Lancet Public Health.

Strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or cut off.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Stroke victims often suffer from paralysis, loss of mobility and speech.

While stroke can be treated, time is of the essence.

The sooner a stroke victim seeks medical attention, the more effective medications can be in restoring blood flow to the brain and reversing the damage.



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