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Could Flu Shots Protect Against Alzheimer’s?

Posted by Lauren Kaudelka on Jan 19, 2021 9:00:00 AM
Lauren Kaudelka
| 4 minute read

Could Flu Shots Protect Against Alzheimer’s_

As a senior living marketing agency, Markentum is actively involved in the Fight to End Alzheimer’s. Our team members wear purple with pride, participate in The Longest Day (June 20) and the Walk to End Alz, and raise funds and awareness for a disease that impacts so many.

For The Longest Day 2020, our team shared the different ways we keep our minds active and stimulated. Each activity challenged the brain in its own way. Still, most of them were inspired by the widely accepted research of “brain-healthy” activities - focusing on a healthy diet, physical exercise, getting enough sleep, socializing with others, and learning new things. 

While these activities can reduce the risk of memory-related problems and foster a healthier lifestyle, there is now an unexpected new face on the scene that could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s - the flu shot.

What Does the Flu Shot Have to Do With Alzheimer’s? 

There are some bizarre myths about the flu shot (like it can make you only able to walk backward), and there are also some bizarre myths about Alzheimer’s disease (like cooking out of aluminum pots can cause it). And finally, there are myths about the combination of the two (like getting the flu shot will give you Alzheimer’s). 

I’ll save you the time and research—none of these are true. There is, however, new evidence that could indicate a more positive connection between the two. According to recent research, vaccines that protect against the flu and pneumonia could also protect against Alzheimer’s disease. 

What New Research Shows

At the 2020 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (held virtually in late July), two studies were presented that suggested both flu and pneumonia vaccines could be associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. These studies, conducted by teams at the University of Texas, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University, look at different long-term effects of consistently getting the flu and pneumonia vaccines. 

triangle-branding"We've always known that vaccines are very important to our overall health, and maybe they even contribute to protecting our memory, our cognition, our brain." - Maria Carrillo, Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer's Association

The research found by the first study concluded that “people that consistently got their annual flu shot had a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, [translating] to an almost 6% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease for patients between the ages of 75-84 for 16 years (The University of Texas Health Science Center).” In addition, they found that those who started getting an annual flu shot earlier in life (at age 60 opposed to 70) had an even lower risk. 

The second study found that getting the pneumonia vaccine between the ages of 65-75 can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 25-30%, and in some cases, up to 40%, depending on genetic makeup. This “suggests that pneumococcal vaccine may be a promising candidate for personalized Alzheimer’s prevention, particularly in non-carriers of certain risk genes (Duke University Social Science Research Institute).” 

The Future of Alzheimer’s Research

While these studies do conclude the protective effect of both these vaccines, they also caution to the degree and universality of the protection. There’s also little evidence that explains why these vaccines might offer protection, although there are a few indirect explanations. 

Both the flu and pneumonia have been known to negatively impact the brain, so protecting yourself against these diseases will naturally protect you against any brain damage or impairment. Likewise, protecting yourself against any illness like the flu or pneumonia will help boost your immune system and keep you generally healthy, a known way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Regardless of the unknowns, this research is still extremely beneficial to the scientific community and beyond as it sheds light on some of the connections between Alzheimer’s and vaccines. Hopefully, this correlation brings us one step closer to ending Alzheimer’s disease. 


Markentum Continues to Fight to End ALZ 💜

Markentum is a senior living marketing agency that is dedicated to helping communities thrive. We have a genuine passion for the industry, our partners, and those they serve. For this reason, we strive to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and research in senior living, health and wellness, and beyond. 

For more information on Markentum or our digital marketing services, we invite you to visit our website.


Tags: Senior Living