Harvard Men's Health Watch

Flu vaccine offers benefits to patients with heart failure

In the Journals

A flu shot may protect heart failure patients against future health problems, suggests new research presented in May at the Third World Congress on Acute Heart Failure hosted by the European Society of Cardiology.

Current guidelines suggest older patients with heart failure get an annual flu shot to reduce the risk of adverse events, but little research has supported this recommendation. It was widely believed the vaccine is less effective in heart failure patients because of their weakened immune response, but this study appears to show an opposite effect.

Researchers identified approximately 59,000 heart failure patients who received a flu vaccine. They looked at a period of 31 to 300 days after vaccination, and found that a flu shot was associated with a 30% lower risk of hospitalization for cardiovascular disease, a 16% lower risk of hospitalization for respiratory infections, and a 4% lower risk of hospitalization for any cause.

The researchers suggested that the likely explanation for the lower risk was that the vaccine reduces the chance of an infection, which could in turn trigger cardiovascular deterioration.