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Can the flu vaccine reduce stroke risk?

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According to new research, getting your annual flu vaccine has to the potential to also reduce your risk of stroke.

Study author, Francisco J. de Aboja says: “Studies have shown that getting the flu increases your risk of having a stroke, but research is still being collected on whether getting the flu vaccine can help protect against a stroke.

“This observational study suggests that those who have a flu shot have a lower risk of stroke. To determine whether this is due to a protective effect of the vaccine itself or to other factors, more research is needed.”

The study focused on ischemic stroke, which is the most common type of stroke.

Researchers examined a healthcare database in Spain and identified individuals who were 40 years old and had a first stroke over a 14 year period.

Each individual who had a stroke was compared to five others who were the same age and sex.

14,322 individuals in the study group had a stroke and 71,610 individuals who did not have a stroke.

The researchers then examined whether individuals had received the influenza vaccine at least 14 days before the stroke. 

41.4 per cent of those who had a stroke had received the flu shot, compared to 40.5 percent of those who did not have a stroke.

However, those individuals who got the vaccine were more likely to be older and have other health conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that would make them more susceptible to suffer a stroke.

Once the research team had adjusted for these factors, they found that those who received the flu vaccination were 12 per cent less likely to have a stroke than this who did not.

The researchers also examined whether the pneumonia vaccine had any effect on the risk of stroke, but no protective effect was found.

de Abajo says: “These results are yet another reason for people to get their yearly flu shot, especially if they are at an increased risk of stroke.

 “To be able to reduce your risk of stroke by taking such a simple action is very compelling.”

The results of the study do not give a definitive answer whether the flu vaccine can prevent stroke, as it was strictly observational, it only shows an association between the vaccine and stroke.

There could possibly be other factors that were not measured that could affect the risk of stroke.

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