An annual flu shot can protect you from a bad case of a runny nose, fever and a sore throat. But the benefits might not end there.
Getting an annual influenza vaccination might lower your risk of the most common type of stroke, according to research recently published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Researchers used a health care database in Spain to find more than 14,000 patients who were at least 40 years old and had their first ischemic stroke, which is the result of blockage of blood flow to the brain.
They also compared each stroke patient with five other people of the same age and gender who had not had a stroke.
After determining who had received the flu vaccine at least 14 days before the stroke — or before that same point for patients who did not have a stroke — the researchers concluded that those who received the vaccine were 12% less likely to have a stroke.
In a press release, study author Dr. Francisco J. de Abajo of the University of Alcala in Madrid, Spain, said:
“Studies have shown that getting the flu increases your risk of having a stroke, but research is still being collected on whether getting the flu vaccine can help protect against a stroke. This observational study suggests that those who have a flu shot have a lower risk of stroke. To determine whether this is due to a protective effect of the vaccine itself or to other factors, more research is needed.”
The researchers also looked at patients who received the pneumonia vaccine, but found that it had no protective effect against stroke risk.
The observational nature of the study means there is no proof that getting the flu shot directly lowers the risk of stroke. Instead, researchers found an association between getting a flu shot and a lower risk of stroke.
So, it’s possible that other unmeasured factors were responsible for the lower risk of stroke.
This is not the first study to show that the flu vaccine might have a protective effect that reaches beyond the illness it was designed to prevent.
As we recently reported, researchers also have determined that the flu vaccine might reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40%. Additionally, a study published in 2021 found that the flu vaccine might reduce your risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes — including stroke.
Other vaccines also might confer additional protective effects. For more, check out “This Vaccine May Lower Stroke Risk for Older Adults.”