Professor Naveed Sattar, from the University of Glasgow's Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said:

How the flu shot can halve the risk of further cardiac arrest in heart attack patients

New studies show how giving a flu shot to heart attack survivors within 72 hours of touching death cuts the risk of further cardiac arrests in half

  • Heart attack survivors are at increased risk for major cardiac arrest
  • The study indicates that the 12 months after a heart attack are a period of incredible risk
  • Professor Naveed Sattar said flu infection causes a patient’s blood to thicken
  • This increases the pressure on the heart and can lead to a possible cardiac event

Anyone who has a heart attack should get a flu shot within 72 hours – regardless of the time of year – two major studies have recommended.

Researchers found that vaccinating heart patients against the winter bug nearly halved their risk of dying from a second heart attack in the following 12 months – the period when the risk is highest.

Professor Naveed Sattar, from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: “The flu puts pressure on your arteries and makes your blood thicker, so if you have heart disease, it could push you over the threshold for a heart attack.

Professor Naveed Sattar, from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: “The flu puts pressure on your arteries and makes your blood thicker, so if you have heart disease, it could push you over the threshold of a heart attack.”

“And the risk of it happening again is highest in the first six to 12 months. This evidence suggests that it’s a good idea not to wait until winter and get a flu shot right away.

Patients who have had a heart attack or are being treated for heart disease are already being advised to get an annual winter flu shot from the NHS when it becomes available from October. But for some, it can mean waiting for months, during which time they risk a second attack. While the flu peaks in the winter, infections can occur at any time of the year. The solution, studies suggest, is to routinely vaccinate all heart attack patients while they are still recovering in hospital.

Scientists at Orebro University, Sweden, followed nearly 3,000 heart attack patients in eight countries, including the UK.

Half received a flu shot within three days of being admitted to hospital and the rest a placebo.

Over the next 12 months, heart-related deaths among those who received a flu shot were almost 40% lower than those in the placebo group.

The second survey, conducted by a research team from Peru, looked at data from more than 4,000 patients and found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of dying from a second heart attack by 47%.

Scientists from Orebro University, Sweden, followed nearly 3,000 heart attack patients in eight countries, including the UK

Scientists from Orebro University, Sweden, followed nearly 3,000 heart attack patients in eight countries, including the UK

Both studies also found similar rates of second heart attacks, suggesting that the shot does not prevent them from occurring, but may lessen the damage they cause.

Leading British cardiologists have welcomed the idea.

Professor Martin Cowie, consultant cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, said: “This is interesting and could be relatively easy to implement in general practice.”

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