GLENDALE, Calif. (KABC) --While flu vaccines are known to help prevent the flu, cardiologists say recent studies indicate it can also help those with heart issues.
Interventional cardiologist Dr. Lawrence O'Connor said the flu vaccine can also help prevent a heart attack or stroke.
"Getting a flu shot for a cardiac patient or someone who might be at risk of cardiac disease actually reduces their mortality rate," O'Connor said.
Health officials said that's because when someone gets the flu, their immune system mounts an attack against the invading virus, but once the virus begins to go away, their white cells look for something else to do.
Researchers state they then attack dormant plaque in arteries, simulating clot formations.
"If that artery is supplying the heart, then you have an acute coronary syndrome, possibly a heart attack. And if it's one of the arteries to the brain, you become at risk of stroke from that combination of disrupted plaque and clot formation," O'Connor explained.
In a recent study, O'Connor said the incidence of cardiac events tracked exactly with getting the flu.
O'Connor said other vaccines can also help the elderly and people with heart disease to reduce their risk of death during flu season.
"Getting one of the pneumonia vaccines also makes a lot of sense for cardiac patients or patients who are at risk of cardiac disease," O'Connor stated.
Dying from the flu often happens after a bacterial infection sets in, which is why O'Connor said people with heart disease should talk to their doctor about getting the two types of pneumonia vaccines.