Another Reason to Get the Flu Shot, Study Finds It May Decrease Risk of Alzheimer’s


ISLAMABAD, MARCH 16 (Online): restExperts are learning about how getting certain vaccines may decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
• Two new studies have found that the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine may protect people from Alzheimer’s disease.
• Experts aren’t sure why vaccines may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
• Past research suggests the widespread inflammation caused by these infections could impact brain health.
There’s another good reason to get your flu shot each year. Two new studies have found that the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine may protect people from Alzheimer’s disease.
The evidence, which was presented at the virtually-held Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July, suggests that people who got at least one flu shot cut their risk of Alzheimer’s by about 17 percent, and those who regularly get vaccinated against the flu had an even lower risk of developing the disease.
The new findings disprove the long-standing myth that the flu shot could give some people Alzheimer’s.
People with dementia have a greater risk of dying from an infection, by about three-fold, compared to those without dementia. Their increased risk of mortality from an infection further highlights the importance of vaccinating this group.
“Adding to the evidence dispelling the myth that flu shots may cause Alzheimer’s disease, two studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference again found a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease associated with influenza and pneumonia vaccinations,” said Dr. Scott Kaiser, a geriatrician and the director of Geriatric Cognitive Health for Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.

The first study, which came out of the University of Texas, set out to understand if vaccinations provide some degree of protection against Alzheimer’s.
The researchers looked at the health records of over 9,000 people aged 60 and older and found that people who received one flu vaccination had a 17 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Those who got two or more flu shots had an additional 13 percent lower risk.
The second study was conducted by researchers from Duke University and the University of North Carolina. They looked at the health records of over 5,000 people ages 65 and up and found that people who got a pneumonia vaccine before age 75 were about 25–30 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
According to the researchers, the findings suggest the pneumococcal vaccine may be a promising Alzheimer’s prevention tool.
A third study presented at the conference spoke to the value of vaccines in people with dementia.
Looking at the health data of over 1.4 million people, researchers from Denmark found that people with dementia who were hospitalized with an infection were 6.5 times more likely to die compared to people who didn’t have an infection or dementia.
That heightened risk of mortality among people with dementia existed in both the short term, within 30 days of contracting an infection, and the long term, or about 10 years after the first infection.
It’s still unclear as to why these vaccines are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The long-term effects of influenza and pneumonia haven’t been thoroughly studied. However, some past research suggests the widespread inflammationTrusted Source caused by these infections could impact brain health.
Dr. Guy Mintz, the director of cardiovascular health and lipidology at Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, New York, said that inflammation from recurrent infections leads to plaque instability, which could affect the blood vessels and blood supply to the brain and lead to impairment.
One study from 2018 found that mice infected with two different types of flu strains experienced changes in the structure and functioning of their brains.
A different 2018 study also identified long-term neuroinflammation following an influenza infection.
A report from 2017Trusted Source found that while influenza doesn’t directly cause neurodegenerative disorders, it could prime the brain to be more susceptible to other factors that do cause neurodegeneration.
“Getting sick with the flu or pneumonia, particularly with bad cases, can be taxing on the brain and increase your long-term risk of dementia. So protecting yourself from flu and pneumonia, through vaccination, May very well is protecting your brain too,” said Kaiser.
Kaiser said other research has linked a weakened immune system — which can occur after battling an illness like the flu or pneumonia — with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
This is likely because a weakened immune system may allow more viruses and bacteria to get into the central nervous system, according to Kaiser.