People taking cholesterol meds may be at higher risk for the flu
While vaccines are available to mitigate the risk of coming down with the flu, a pair of studies suggest seniors with high cholesterol may still be vulnerable to the illness.
One study, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, found that the use of statins may reduce the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. Statins are drugs used to help lower cholesterol and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are used by more than 40 percent of adults 65 years old and older in the United States.
Older adults using statins were found to have a reduced immune response to the vaccination, possibly making them less protected from influenza.
“The flu is a serious virus that can have harmful effects for seniors, especially if they are already experiencing health complications,” says Dr. James Malow, infectious disease specialist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Flu vaccines are important for preventive care and we should do everything we can to ensure their effectiveness.”
The second study analyzed the effect of statins on the flu vaccine’s ability to prevent respiratory illness.
Like the first study, the findings suggested statins decrease the vaccine’s success, possibly making seniors more susceptible to the flu and conditions that come along with it as a result.
“These studies are very preliminary and additional research is necessary to confirm their findings,” says Dr. Malow. “If this information is confirmed it could change the way physicians help patients prevent and manage multiple health conditions at once, such as influenza and high cholesterol.”
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months old and older receive a flu vaccine. For further protection, Dr. Malow advises avoiding others who are sick and washing your hands often. See a doctor if you experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, body aches and fatigue.
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