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Getting a flu shot this year might protect you against more than the just the flu. In fact, according to recent reports, getting a flu shot may also fight against heart attacks.

British researchers, who conducted the study, compared the medical records of just over 16,000 first-time heart attack victims age 40 or older with the records of nearly 62,700 people who never had heart attacks. Overall, they found that, after factoring in for other risk factors such as smoking and family history of heart attacks, there was a 19% reduction in the chances of someone having their first heart attack the next year. The benefit increased even more to 21% if individuals got their flu shots earlier in the season.

The study does not indicate, however, a simple cause-and-effect. In other words, the study does not show that the flu vaccine prevents heart attacks. Instead, it shows that the vaccine prevents respiratory infections which have been linked to heart attacks. While doctors aren’t sure how the flu protects against first attack exactly, they suspect that a respiratory infection may somehow trigger plaque rupture in the arteries.

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