• By Jason Howland

Mayo Clinic Minute: How flu shots prevent heart attacks

February 22, 2019

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all people 6 months and older, with few exceptions, should get a flu shot. The truth is, the flu is not the only health problem the vaccine prevents. It also may help prevent heart attack and stroke. A new study recently published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation also confirms that having an annual flu shot decreases your risk of cardiovascular death.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

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Everyone should know that getting a flu shot helps prevent the flu. But that's not all.

"It's been shown that if you get a flu shot, it will lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by about 50 percent during that flu season," says Dr. Stephen Kopecky (Koh-PET-ski), a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.

Seriously? Yes. You see, the influenza virus can cause an inflammatory reaction all over your body. That's why you feel miserable. And, when that reaction happens, it also can irritate the lining of your arteries. If those arteries are already in trouble with plaque buildup, the inflammation can prompt a tear. A blood clot could form, blocking blood flow to your heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke.

"So I tell patients, get a flu shot," says Dr. Kopecky. "Not because I'm so concerned about them getting the flu, but I'm concerned about them having a heart attack or a stroke. And patients, once you tell them that, they say: 'Oh, I didn't realize that. I'll get my flu shot this year.'"

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