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Flu Vaccine can Reduce Stroke Risk

Update Date: Feb 20, 2014 03:10 PM EST

Experts have pushed people over the age of six-months to get the seasonal flu vaccine. The vaccine is the best kind of protection against the flu virus. Now, according to a new study, researchers from the University of Lincoln and the University of Nottingham in the Untied Kingdom reported that getting the seasonal flu vaccine can reduce one's risk of suffering from a stroke.

"The causes of stroke are not fully understood. Classical risk factors like age, smoking and high blood pressure can account for just over half of all cases. We know that cardiovascular diseases tend to hit during winter and that the risks may be heightened by respiratory infections such as flu," lead investigator Professor Niro Siriwardena, who is a Professor of Primary and Pre-hospital Healthcare in the School of Health and Social Care at the University of Lincoln, said. "Our study showed a highly significant association between flu vaccination and reduced risk of stroke within the same flu season. The results were consistent with our previous research into heart attack risk."

For this study, Siriwardena worked with statistician, Dr. Zahid Asghar and examined the medical records on over 47,000 patients who had one stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA) from 2001 to 2009. The data came from the UK'S National General Practice Research Database, which is currently called the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. The researchers examined flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine in relation to stroke risk.

The team concluded that people who got the seasonal flu vaccine has a 24 percent lower risk of suffering from a stroke. The researchers reported that the reduced stroke risk was most effective when the vaccine was administered early on during the season. The flu vaccine did not affect TIA risk. The researchers did not find any effects of getting the pneumococcal vaccination on stroke or TIA risk.

"Further experimental studies would be needed to better understand the relationship between flu vaccination and stroke risk. However, these findings reinforce the value of the UK's national flu vaccination program with reduced risk of stroke appearing to be an added health benefit," Siriwardena said according to Medical Xpress.

The study, "Influenza and pneumococcal vaccination and risk of stroke or transient ischemic attack-Matched case control study," was published in the journal, Vaccine.

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