Getting your annual flu shot may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Jul 28, 2020
New research has found getting vaccinated may reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Source: Getty.

It turns out that flu and pneumonia shots can do more than just protect against getting sick — getting vaccinated may also reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research released this week.

In three new, separate studies, which were released on Monday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Amsterdam, Netherlands, researchers found that flu and pneumonia vaccinations are associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia.

The researchers found having one flu vaccination was associated with a 17 per cent reduction in Alzheimer’s incidence. While more frequent flu vaccination was associated with another 13 per cent reduction in Alzheimer’s incidence.

Meanwhile, vaccination against pneumonia between ages 65 and 75 reduced Alzheimer’s risk by up to 40 per cent depending on individual genes. The research also found individuals with dementia have a higher risk of dying after infections than those without dementia.

“With the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccines are at the forefront of public health discussions,” Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer Maria Carrillo said. “It is important to explore their benefit in not only protecting against viral or bacterial infection but also improving long-term health outcomes.

“It may turn out to be as simple as if you’re taking care of your health in this way — getting vaccinated — you’re also taking care of yourself in other ways, and these things add up to lower risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

“This research, while early, calls for further studies in large, diverse clinical trials to inform whether vaccinations as a public health strategy decrease our risk for developing dementia as we age.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 50 to 75 per cent of cases, with no known cure. Dementia was the second leading cause of death in 2017 in Australia and is expected to affect up to 550,000 by 2030.

Albert Amran, a medical student at the McGovern Medical School in the US, said the flu shot may be the key to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our study suggests that regular use of a very accessible and relatively cheap intervention — the flu shot — may significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia,” he said.

But Amran added more studies are needed to explore why and how the vaccination works against Alzheimer’s disease. “More research is needed to explore the biological mechanism for this effect — why and how it works in the body — which is important as we explore effective preventive therapies for Alzheimer’s.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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