Grand Rapids, Mich. (WZZM) - If you're searching for a reason to get a flu shot this year, here's a good one - it may keep you from having a heart attack.
New research from the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows a link between flu vaccinations and heart attacks.
The research compared medical records of patients who had heart attacks and whether or not they had gotten a flu vaccine. Researchers found that patients over 40 years old who were vaccinated had a 20% reduction compared to those who didn't.
"We've known for a long time that any kind of infections, whether it's influenza or bacterial infections, increases the risk of plaque rupture," said Dr. Dennis Dunning, a cardiologist with Spectrum Health.
He cautions that while the research shows a link, it's not a guarantee you won't have a heart attack. "It really doesn't prevent a heart attack. It simply decreases the risk."
But Dr. Dunning does agree that getting the flu can put stress on your body which can aggravate an existing heart condition. "If you have an acute event that can make the inflammatory reaction of the body fighting off the infection even more dramatic," says Dr. Dunning, "it can bring out an underlying problem that the patient may not even know existed."
Which is enough to convince yearly flu shot recipient Tracy Evans that her husband needs one too. "We're gonna head up to Walgreens now that I know our insurance covers it," said Tracy, "and he's gonna get one!"
The research also showed that the relationship was stronger if you were immunized before mid-November.
Join WZZM 13's Valerie Lego in a live chat about the flu tonight at 5:30pm. Watch for the banner on the home page.