Your Annual Flu Shot Might Fight Alzheimer’s

Flu season is almost upon us. People age 65 and older are at high risk for flu-related complications, so they are urged to get a seasonal flu vaccine each year. That is especially the case with the added threat of the coronavirus. And this year, when the time comes to get innoculated, there’s yet another good reason to get your seasonal flu vaccine: It might help fight Alzheimer’s disease.

According to new research, getting a flu vaccination is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The research, reported in July by the Alzheimer’s Association, said that getting at least one flu vaccination was associated with a 17% drop in Alzheimer’s incidence. More frequent flu vaccination was associated with another 13% drop in Alzheimer’s incidence.

Those are notable numbers, although the exact connection between the vaccine and Alzheimer’s is not yet understood. “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,” said Maria C. Carrillo of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The study looked at the health records of 9,000 Americans. It found that the link between the flu vaccine and the reduced risk of Alzheimer’s was strongest for those who got their first vaccine at a younger age. For example, the people who got their first documented flu shot at age 60 benefitted more than those who got their first flu shot at age 70. But it’s never too late to protect ourselves with a flu vaccine.

Both the researchers and Alzheimer’s Association staff caution that these are early findings and that more research is needed. But if you needed another reason to get your flu shot this fall, this is a darn good one.