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The simple answer is yes –get a flu shot. The CDC, and all the major cardiovascular medical organizations, recommend people with heart disease (including bypass or stents) get a flu shot.

A healthy lifestyle improves your immune system to fight off the flu

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There are several studies that show the importance of protecting yourself from the flu. A 2015 meta-analysis by the Cochrane Heart Group looked at a series of studies done on heart patients who either did or did not receive the flu vaccine. They concluded that the shot decreases cardiovascular events and may decrease death. Another 2011 study of 439 patients who had underdone myocardial infarction or received a stent found the vaccination decreased major cardiovascular events and death by half (major events 9.5% vs 19.3% and death 2.3% vs 5.5%).

How Do I Know the Vaccine is Good?

There are many challenges in designing an effective vaccine. The flu is not the same year-to-year. Vaccine developers do their best to predict what the virus will be like the following year. Some years the vaccine is a better match for the flu virus than others. Early reports from Australia look like the vaccine was not very effective in the 2017-2018 against the flu virus subtypes (H3). Australia had their flu season earlier than America or Europe. We are still seeing the effect of people vaccinated in the northern hemisphere. According to the CDC, much of the flu cases we are seeing this season is the H3 subtype.

How Can I Avoid Catching the Flu?

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Wear a mask in crowded public areas like airplanes and doctors’ offices.
  • Avoid being in areas where there is likely to be a concentration of sick people.
  • Family members and close contacts of high-risk patients should get vaccinated or wear a mask.

How Does a Healthy Lifestyle Help?

A healthy lifestyle improves your immune system and helps to fight off a variety of illnesses including the flu. This includes:

All of these lifestyle changes help to decrease viral infections and influenza. Flu shots and lifestyle measures are a personal choice, and I hope that this information helps you make a more informed choice.

Contributed by

Ben Brown, MD
Medical Director, Ornish Lifestyle Medicine

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