Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

Senior man getting a flu shot
Photo by Lisa F. Young / Shutterstock.com

Getting a flu shot is always wise, but especially so this year.

The vaccine helps protect against influenza, which can be dangerous and even deadly. Getting more people vaccinated against flu should mean fewer patients in hospitals, which is crucial during a time when the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage.

Now, another reason has emerged to get the flu shot: Doing so may reduce your risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Three separate studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in late July all point in that direction. According to these studies:

  • Getting at least one flu vaccination drops the risk of Alzheimer’s by 17%. Additional, frequent vaccinations drop the risk by another 13%.
  • Being vaccinated for pneumonia when you are between ages 65 and 75 lowers Alzheimer’s risk by up to 40%. However, the impact here depends on an individual’s genetic makeup.

These vaccinations also can protect people who already have dementia, because those with dementia have a six-fold higher risk of dying after contracting an infection such as influenza or pneumonia.

The Alzheimer’s Association notes that earlier, smaller studies also had found links between vaccinations and reduced risk of cognitive decline. But the research presented at this year’s conference involved larger studies.

One study — out of the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston — involved an analysis of a large dataset of American health records.

It found that people who consistently got their annual flu shot had an almost 6% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease when they were between the ages of 75 and 84.

Being vaccinated at an earlier age — for example, getting one’s first flu shot at age 60 rather than age 70 — lowered the risk of developing Alzheimer’s even more, the researchers note.

Another study — out of the Duke University Social Science Research Institute — found that people who had pneumonia vaccination between the ages of 65 and 75 reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by between 25% and 30%, after adjusting for a known genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other characteristics.

This reduction was as high as 40% among the people who do not have the gene associated with Alzheimer’s risk.

The Alzheimer’s Association adds:

“Total number of vaccinations against pneumonia and the flu between ages 65 and 75 was also associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s; however, the effect was not evident for the flu shot alone.”

For more on preventing dementia, check out:

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