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A Flu Shot Bonus: AFib Protection

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Not only does getting an influenza vaccination protect you from getting the flu, it may also lower your risk of developing atrial fibrillation, an arrhythmic disorder that causes the heart to beat irregularly and rapidly.

A recent study from Taiwan published online in Heart Rhythm, reports that a flu infection is associated with the risk of developing atrial fibrillation. Researchers analyzed the medical data of more than 11,000 patients newly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and a control group of approximately 46,000 people without atrial fibrillation (average age, 70). They found that patients who didn’t get a flu shot one year prior and subsequently contracted the flu had an 18 percent higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation than those who were vaccinated in the previous year.

One possible explanation is that both atrial fibrillation and influenza may precipitate common elevated inflammatory markers in the blood and similar changes in the autonomic nervous system, which regulates certain involuntary functions of the body, such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and digestion. In fact, a proven connection between the heart disorder and influenza already exists—having atrial fibrillation is a known risk factor for flu complications.

Because of the study’s observational nature, the researchers couldn’t prove the flu was the direct cause of increased atrial fibrillation risk. Nevertheless, the researchers say it’s always a good idea to get a flu shot, especially for people at risk for atrial fibrillation. They also suggest that doctors evaluate patients who have the flu for new-onset atrial fibrillation if they complain of heart palpitations. 



Posted in Heart Health on May 6, 2016

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer

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