Why you’re still at risk for the flu even if you’re vaccinated

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Cholesterol | Monday, November 16, 2015 - 01:00 PM

flu-shotFlu season is right around the corner, and those over the age of 65 have a higher chance of catching it than other age groups. For this reason many seniors opt to get the flu shot, but if you’re like the many older adults who are on cholesterol-lowering statins, it may be ineffective.

Two recent studies have just come to light, revealing that individuals who take statins to lower their cholesterol are not protected against the flu, even if they have received the flu shot. With seniors being at highest risk to develop complications associated with the flu, the findings are highly important.

Cholesterol-lowering statins reduce protection from the flu shot

Cholesterol-lowering statins reduce protection from the flu shotThe first study was done by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Global Health Center, where researchers worked with scientists from Novartis Vaccines to collect data from a clinical trial of the flu shot. Researchers examined the effectiveness of the flu shot on 7,000 seniors over the age of 65 during the flu seasons of 2009 to 2011.

Antibody levels were measured three weeks after the flu shot was given. They found that those taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol also had fewer antibodies. Those who did not take statins created 38 to 67 percent more antibodies to fight off the flu.

Their findings suggest that seniors who are taking statins should have the option to receive a higher dosage of the flu shot, to gain better protection from the flu.

In the second study, a research team from Emory University examined data over the course of seven flu seasons (2002 to 2011). The study involved nearly 140,000 individuals over the age of 45.

The findings of this second study also confirmed that the flu vaccine had reduced effectiveness on people taking statins compared to those who did not take statins. Even after factoring in the vaccines ability to ward off respiratory illness, the discovery of statins lowering the effectiveness still remained.

Seniors: Lower cholesterol and prevent the flu

Seniors, Lower cholesterol and prevent the fluIf you’re a senior it’s important to receive the flu shot, but ensuring that it will be able to protect you is also key. If you are on cholesterol-lowering statins, ask your doctor about the high-dose flu vaccine to ensure your body can create enough antibodies to ward off the flu. Other tips to prevent the flu include:

  • Avoiding close contact with others – especially if sick
  • Always washing your hands
  • Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Staying home when sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Disinfecting commonly used areas at work and at home

Furthermore, lifestyle habits can go a long way in lowering cholesterol. Lifestyle habits to lower cholesterol include:

  • Exercising
  • Cutting out unhealthy fats – saturated fat and trans fat
  • Eating healthy fats – monounsaturated and unsaturated
  • Sticking with whole grains and avoiding refined carbohydrates
  • Enjoying plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Not smoking, quitting smoking

By following these tips you can help yourself lower cholesterol and prevent the flu.

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