A study conducted in the United Kingdom suggests that the vaccine may help to reduce the risk of having a stroke. Previously conducted research suggested that the vaccine’s relationship to a decreased risk of stroke was inconsistent, and researchers sought to improve the evidence that obtaining a flu vaccine would help to lessen chances of having a stroke. Researchers compiled data from patients age 18 and older that had experienced a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) from September 2001-August 2009. They matched these individuals with controls who had never experienced a stroke or TIA event, and adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors, co-morbidity, and vaccine risk groups. The study consisted of 26,784 patients that had experienced a stroke, and 20,277 that had experienced a TIA episode.
The results of the research indicated that those who had received an influenza vaccine saw a 24% reduced chance of stroke during the season of March-September. The reduction in stroke risk was calculated 6 months after the vaccine had been administered to patients. The reduction in chance of stroke was most prevalent in those that had been vaccinated earlier in the year. There was no significant change in those who had received an influenza vaccine and also experienced TIA symptoms. These findings could help pharmacists improve influenza vaccination rates, with decreased risk of stroke as an added benefit to vaccination. Vaccines are something that many patients often put off, or do not complete the required follow up vaccine dosage schedule. Educating patients on the importance of getting vaccinated for influenza can help prevent illness, as well as prevent patients from suffering a potentially deadly stroke.
Pharmacists can help educate patients on stroke symptoms, and how to recognize a stroke while also offering the influenza vaccine at their office or location. The most important factor in stroke recovery is time. Pharmacists can find literature and media that can be sent to display, to help patients recognize the warning signs of a stroke. These include facial muscle drooping, arm weakness, and slurred speech. Early intervention is necessary to prevent further brain damage when a stroke occurs. The Stroke Association has developed an app for patients to download that can help them spot a stroke while on the go.
Pharmacists can help patients to make an educated decision regarding the influenza vaccine, and add the potential bonus of reduced risk of stroke to the benefit of helping prevent illness. Helping patients to understand their risk for a potential stroke can also aid in increasing vaccination rates. A patient’s lifestyle, health choices, and medical history are all factors to consider in assessing one’s risk of having a stroke. High blood pressure, smoking, heart disease, and high cholesterol are just a few of the risk factors that can contribute to a stroke that patients can change by altering their behavior, activity level, or diet. The influenza vaccine has a number of beneficial properties, and a reduced risk of stroke is important for pharmacists to make their patients and communities aware of.