People with type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle disease characterized by the body's inability to control blood sugar, are at increased risk for cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke.
Findings of a new study, however, have shown that flu vaccine may help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes patients from getting hospitalized due to stroke and heart failure. Diabetic patients who received the influenza vaccination also had lower risk for death in the flu season compared with those who were not vaccinated.
In a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on July 25, researchers from the Imperial College London followed more than 124,500 adults with type 2 diabetes. Of these patients, 65 percent received the flu vaccine.
Study researcher Eszter Vamos and colleagues found that diabetic patients who received the jab were 30 percent less likely to get hospitalized for stroke and 22 percent less likely to be hospitalized due to heart failure. These patients are also 15 percent less likely to get hospitalized for pneumonia or influenza.
"In this cohort of patients with type 2 diabetes, influenza vaccination was associated with reductions in rates of admission to hospital for specific cardiovascular events," the researchers reported in their study.
Vamos and colleagues also noticed that there was a 19 percent reduction in heart attack-related admissions during the flu season but this finding was not considered as statistically significant. Nonetheless, patients who were vaccinated had 24 percent reduced death rate compared with those who were not vaccinated.
The researchers said that given that most flu-deaths tend to occur in people who have pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, the research suggests the benefits of vaccination for patients.
Vamos said that flu vaccine may not only lower incidences of stroke and heart attack in high risk patients, but it may also reduce the risk of death during the flu season.
The researchers noted that by increasing the number of people who receive the influenza vaccine per year, it is possible to further lower the risks of severe illnesses that are not otherwise addressed by other means.
"Efforts should be focused on improvements in vaccine uptake in this important target group as part of comprehensive secondary prevention," the researchers said.
Type 2 diabetes, which is often caused by physical inactivity and excess body weight, affects 422 million people worldwide, figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show. In 2012, the illness is directly responsible for an estimated 1.5 million deaths. People with diabetes have up to three times higher risk of suffering from heart failure and stroke.