50 Shades of Benefits

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It is that time of year again when the trees are all pretty with autumn colours, the chill starting in the air and people beginning to catch colds and even worse, flu. Stroke survivors, along with many others who are vulnerable and therefore classed as high-risk, are advised to have a flu jab. This has fast become a bone of contention, some people believing it has actually caused them to feel unwell. We are all aware it cannot protect us against every strain of flu but it is wise not to have it?   Have we ever thought of looking at the benefits beyond the obvious ones?

It has been identified that flu shots have also significant benefits for the heart. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2013, found that the flu vaccination provided protection against major heart events over the following year, pooling data involving more than 6700 people, about a third with heart disease. Findings illustrated that overall patients who had received the flu vaccination were 36 percent less at risk of experiencing heart attacks, stroke or other cardiac problems. Protection was even greater in those who had recently suffered a heart attack.

You may well ask how can this be so? Infection with the flu virus prompts the body to create a powerful immune response; an inflammation that can cause plaque to rupture, resulting in blockages related to heart attacks and/or stroke. The flu virus can also lower blood oxygen in the lungs and consequently straining the heart by working harder. It can also damage heart muscle cells which can lead to, or contribute towards heart failure. By avoiding the flu this cocktail of dangerous consequences can be sidestepped too.

A higher dose of the vaccine is now available for people 65 years of age and older. This vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen, which is the agent that primes the body’s immune system.

Although flu vaccinations are far from being perfect and still do not protect us from every strain of flu, they do lower our risk of flu by 50 to 60 percent.

So next time you, or someone you know, are in two minds as to whether to have the flu injection or not, please remind yourself and explain to them the benefits listed here. Can you honestly see any good reason not to have it? Very mild flu-like symptoms, a side effect some people experience for a day or so after the injection, are surely a small price to pay!

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