Your influenza and pneumonia vaccinations may have more benefits than intended with new research showing they are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
New research reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference revealed that at least one flu vaccination was associated with a 17 per cent reduction in Alzheimer’s incidence, while more frequent flu vaccinations could reduce your risk by another 13 per cent.
Those receiving pneumonia vaccinations between the ages of 65 and 75 reduced their Alzheimer’s risk by up to 40 per cent.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines are at the forefront of public health discussions,” said Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer Maria C Carrillo. “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.”
Previous studies showed that some vaccinations may prevent cognitive decline, but these comprehensive studies by the team at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston on the flu vaccine and Alzheimer’s disease risk are a first.
The team found that people who consistently get an annual flu shot had a lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
The cognitive benefits of the flu vaccine were strongest for those who received their first vaccine at a younger age, but even 60 years old was young enough to have protective benefits.
“Our study suggests that regular use of a very accessible and relatively cheap intervention – the flu shot – may significantly reduce risk of Alzheimer’s dementia,” said study leader Albert Amran.
“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.”
Meanwhile, researchers at Duke University Social Science Research Institute investigated the associations between pneumococcal vaccination, with and without an accompanying seasonal flu shot, and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease among 5146 participants age 65 and over.
The research further showed that repurposing existing vaccines could contribute towards Alzheimer’s disease prevention.
People receiving a pneumococcal vaccination between the ages of 65 and 75 reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 25 to 30 per cent, with reductions of up to 40 per cent for those vaccinated against pneumonia and who were non-carriers of the risk gene.
“Vaccinations against pneumonia before age 75 may reduce Alzheimer’s risk later in life, depending on individual genotype,” said Svetlana Ukraintseva, an Associate Research Professor in the Biodemography of Aging Research Unit (BARU) at Duke University Social Science Research Institute.
“These data suggest that pneumococcal vaccine may be a promising candidate for personalized Alzheimer’s prevention, particularly in non-carriers of certain risk genes.”
Researchers also investigated the links between infection and dementia and found that living with dementia commonly led to other health conditions including viral and bacterial infections.
There may also be evidence that infections cause dementia, say Danish researchers, who found that people with both dementia and viral, bacterial or other infections that led to hospital visits died at a 6.5 times higher rate compared with people who had neither.
“Our study supports the need to investigate these relations even further; to find out why infections are linked to higher mortality in people with dementia, specifically which risk factors and biological mechanisms are involved. This will help advance our understanding of the role of infections in dementia,” said study leader and PhD student Janet Janbek.
“Our study suggests that the healthcare system – as well as relatives of people with dementia – should have increased awareness of people with dementia who get infections, so they get the medical care they need. People with dementia require more specialised treatment even when their hospital visits are not directly due to their dementia but to what might appear to be an unrelated infection”.
Would you now be more likely to get a flu or pneumonia shot?
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