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If you already have your flu shot, pat yourself on the back: You may also be reducing your risk of having a heart attack.

A study of 218 heart patients found that those who had flu shots during the 1997-98 flu season had only one-third the risk of having a second heart attack as patients who did not receive a shot, said Dr. Morteza Naghavi of the University of Texas-Houston Health Sciences Center.

Although the study involved heart patients, the potential protective effect of the shots could apply to people in general, he reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Flu shots may reduce the risk of a heart attack by preventing infection from reaching coronary arteries. Infections are now recognized as a potential cause of heart disease.

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