A new research by University of New South Wales has found that people who have been vaccinated against influenza are 29% less likely to have a heart attack.
According to the researchers, the vaccination represents a greater protective effect than ceasing smoking and nearly as much as taking statins.
Senior author Raina MacIntyre opined that giving universal access to the flu vaccine to anybody aged over 50 was likely to save many more lives.
"The role of the flu vaccine in preventing heart attacks had not been taken into account in previous cost-benefit analyses of broadening the national flu vaccination program to people aged between 50 and 65," MacIntyre said.
Individuals who had heart attacks were twice as likely to have recently suffered the flu.
"The debate needs to be reframed around the fact that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world and in Australia and we've already got good prevention," Professor MacIntyre said.
The relation between heart attacks and flu was established in the 1930s. It was the duration when researchers observed that the number of heart attacks peaked at the height of the flu season.
Earlier researches show that the flu may cause the heart to beat faster and the blood to clot more easily, causing blockages in already partially obstructed arteries.
Researches also say that people whose arteries are only 50% or 60% blocked may show no signs of ill health until they are struck by the flu.