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This Simple Step May Lower Alzheimer’s Risk by 40%

Rolling up your sleeve to get a flu shot may also significantly reduce your risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research.

Those who have received at least one flu shot during their lifetime are 40% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over a period of four years than those who have not been vaccinated, according to a study out of UTHealth Houston and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The study included a large sample of U.S. adults ages 65 and older — nearly 2 million — split evenly between those who had been vaccinated and those who had not.

About 5.1% of flu-vaccinated patients were found to have developed Alzheimer’s disease at four-year follow-up appointments, according to researchers. That compares to 8.5% of non-vaccinated patients.

The study builds on earlier research that found a possible link between flu vaccination and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.

In a press release, Dr. Avram S. Bukhbinder, who was first author of the study, says:

“We found that flu vaccination in older adults reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease for several years. The strength of this protective effect increased with the number of years that a person received an annual flu vaccine – in other words, the rate of developing Alzheimer’s was lowest among those who consistently received the flu vaccine every year.”

Dr. Paul E. Schulz, senior author of the study, notes that although researchers looked specifically at how the flu vaccine impacts Alzheimer’s risk, “there is evidence that several vaccines may protect from Alzheimer’s disease.”

Vaccinations during adulthood that have been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s include those for:

  • Tetanus
  • Polio
  • Herpes

Schulz says the current thinking is that some illnesses, such as pneumonia, may negatively impact the immune system in a way that makes Alzheimer’s worse, and that other things — such as the flu vaccine — might trigger the immune system in a way that has a protective effect against Alzheimer’s.

If you plan to get vaccinated against the flu this fall, make sure you choose the right shot. For more, check out “3 Flu Shots Recommended for Seniors.”

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