By Stephanie Stahl

There may be another reason to get a flu shot. In addition to preventing influenza, a new study says the vaccine can also lower the risk of a heart attack.

Everyone, except young babies, should get a yearly flu shot, and they’re available now. This year the seasonal flu shot will also protect against the swine flu, so you only need one injection. And now there’s another reason to make sure you get the vaccine.

Rob Aiudi gets a flu shot every year because he doesn’t ever want to get sick with influenza again.

“If it’s going to prevent a week of horrible headaches and body aches I’m into it,” said Rob.

And now there may be an added benefit. A new study from British researchers shows the flu vaccine lowers the risk of a heart attack overall by 19 percent.

“Heart attacks are most prevalent during the winter months due to the stress of the cold and the development of upper respiratory tract infections, like the flu,” said Dr. Frank Spinelli, an Internist.

Researchers found timing is key. Getting a flu shot early in the season reduces the risk of a heart attack by 21 percent. Waiting until mid-November or later only reduces your risk 12 percent.

Doctors aren’t sure of the exact connection between the flu and heart attacks, but the theory is that respiratory infection, more prevalent in the winter, during flu season trigger plaque in the arteries to break off and go to the heart.

“Heart attacks are caused by lack of oxygen to the blood. This is caused by clogged arteries or plaque buildup,” said Dr. Spinelli.

Rob doesn’t have a history of heart disease, but he’s happy to know he’s doing something good for his heart.

“I’m 51 so anything that’s going to help me live a little longer is probably a good idea, and I certainly don’t want to have a heart attack,” said Rob.

Doctors say people should be getting their flu shots now, especially critical for senior citizens.

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