Dementia breakthrough: The common jab shown to slash the risk of dementia by 40%

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There are several types of dementia. The most common – Alzheimer’s disease – is characterised by a build-up of toxic protein in the brain. The condition has been of great concern to governments for decades, but the dementia storm looming on the horizon poses new threats to health services. Fortunately, a new study has suggested regular flu vaccines may significantly reduce the risk of the disease.

The new research from UTHealth Houston showed people who received at least one flu vaccine were 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over four years.

The study compared the risk of Alzheimer’s disease incidence between patients with and without prior flu vaccination in a nationwide sample residing in the US.

While previous studies have explored this link, the latest is the first of its kind to include such a large sample.

The lead author Avram S. Bukhbinder, a recent alumnus of McGovern Medical School, at UTHealth Houston, said: “We found that flu vaccination in older adults reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease for several years.

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“The strength of this protective effect increased with the number of years that a person receives an annual flu vaccine – in other words, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s was lower among those who consistently receive the flu vaccine every year.

“Future research should assess whether flu vaccination is also associated with the rate of symptom progression in patients who already have Alzheimer’s dementia.”

The study analysed a large sample of 935,887 flu-vaccinated patients and 935,887 non-vaccination patients.

Over a four-year follow-up period, appointments helped assess how many of the flu-vaccinated patients developed Alzheimer’s disease.

It emerged 5.1 percent of flu-vaccinated patients had developed Alzheimer’s, compared to 8.5 percent of their non-vaccinated peers.

Paul E. Schulz, Rick McCord Professor in Neurology at McGovern Medical School, and also a senior author of the study, added: “Since there is evidence that several vaccines may protect from Alzheimer’s disease, we are thinking that it isn’t a specific effect of the vaccine.

“Instead, we believe that the immune system is complex, and some alterations, such as pneumonia, may activate it in a way that makes Alzheimer’s disease worse.

“But other things that activate the immune system may do so in a different way – one that protects from Alzheimer’s disease.

“Clearly, we have more to learn about how the immune system worsens or improves outcomes in this disease.”

According to both of the study’s senior authors, the results underscore the protective mechanisms of the jab against cognitive decline.

The underlying processes at play in this protection, however, require further research.

Past studies have found a decreased risk of dementia linked with previous exposure to various adulthood jabs.

These have included jabs for tetanus, polio, and herpes, in addition to the flu vaccine and others.

Researchers have therefore started to question whether any connections exist between the COVID-19 vaccination and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The latest findings offer hope to health services in light of relentless increases in dementia rates, which are predicted to grow further in coming years.

The highest increases are expected to affect sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, but the burden on the United Kingdom will also be significant, figures suggest.

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