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A recently released study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed a 20% increase in hospitalizations for pneumonia among people aged 65 to 84 and a two-fold increase among people 85 and older in the years from 1988 to 1990 to 2000 to 2002.
Pneumonia is one of the top 10 causes of death in the US, in part because it often develops as a complication of other diseases. The percentage of patients hospitalized for pneumonia who also had a chronic disease -- cardiac disease, pulmonary disease or diabetes -- rose from 66% to 77%. Given the huge number of Americans nearing their mid-60s and that there are many who suffer from chronic disease, the need to take preventive measures against pneumonia has become more pressing than ever.
William Schaffner, MD, professor and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN. explains that pneumonia is actually a catchall term that describes an infection of the lungs. Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of micro-organisms including both viruses and bacteria. The main reason for the rise in cases of pneumonia, he says, is simply the aging population and the concomitant increase of disease, frailty and weakening of the immune system. Dr. Schaffner makes it clear that age doesn't have to mean becoming a victim to pneumonia, with his advice on pneumonia avoidance.
Anyone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the umbrella term for chronic bronchitis, emphysema and some forms of asthma, should pay special attention, he says. The reason: The health of the lungs is already compromised, making them particularly vulnerable to pneumonia. It is vital for these people to work with their doctor to treat and monitor their condition including, he says, having yearly pneumonia and flu vaccinations. Dr. Schaffner explains that influenza in particular predisposes older adults to pneumonia because the flu irritates and impairs the mucus lining of the bronchial tube membranes and bacteria and other microorganisms follow.
People often worry that a flu vaccination won't protect against the particular strain that is paramount in a given year, but Dr. Schaffner says that the vaccination mix each year includes protection against three strains of flu virus and even though it may not be a perfect match, the vaccination will often prevent flu complications including pneumonia. He urges anyone age 50 or over who has a chronic disease and everyone 65 and older to get a flu vaccination each year. He adds that doing this also offers protection to the community at large because you aren't walking around infecting others. Furthermore, should you be hospitalized for other reasons, being vaccinated will help protect you from the pneumonia-causing bacteria there.
HEALTHY LIFE -- HEALTHY LUNGS
"In addition, there are several critical health measures to incorporate in your daily life if you haven't done so already. First and foremost -- and no surprise here -- is to avoid smoking and inhaling even second-hand smoke. Do what you must, but quit. Yes, it's hard, but the benefits are huge, including healthier lungs. Dr. Schaffner adds that we have discovered that second-hand smoke is much more harmful to health than previously thought. If people in your life continue to smoke, send them outside to indulge in a cigarette. Surprisingly, being overweight can be another risk factor. The lungs of overweight people have to work harder to supply enough oxygen to an outsized body, but there is another problem as well. "
"Overweight people tend to breathe more shallowly, which means they are not clearing the air fully from their lungs. This allows stagnant air to remain in the base of the lungs and provide an area for bacteria to accumulate. Normally people clear bacteria from the lungs by breathing deeply and coughing, but seriously overweight people can't manage either of these well enough to sustain this clearance mechanism effectively. "
"Daily Health News contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, suggests overweight people practice yoga breathing exercises to help breathe deeper and clear the lungs. One of his favorite breathing exercises is one that is often recommended for asthmatics. The technique, called "pranayama" by instructors in hatha yoga, helps constricted lungs pump air out more efficiently. Do it for 10 minutes once or twice a day to help lungs be clear and strong..."
"Dr. Schaffner also urges people to exercise regularly, not only to provide another way to control weight, but also to open up the bronchial tubes, which helps to bring up any bacteria in the lungs. Finally, wash your hands frequently and well throughout the day. Dr. Schaffner says that the hands are the great collector and conveyer of bacteria and viruses from the community. By washing often and using a hand sanitizer, you can keep many of these disease triggers away from you".
According to Mark Stengler, ND," in addition to taking a multivitamin daily -- which one study on the elderly showed helps prevent infections -- Dr. Stengler advises 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily and 200 mcg a day of selenium to help many people prevent viral infection. The herb Astragalus helps prevent upper respiratory tract infections, take 500 mg twice daily. "
"Finally, Maitake mushrooms are good as broad immune enhancers. You can find these in gourmet markets and they are good sautéed by themselves or added in generous quantities to rice, soups and other dishes. Maitake is also available in capsule form -- take 300 mg to 500 mg twice a day. It is best to talk to your own trained health-care professional before taking nutritional supplements in order to get the right product and dosing for individual health needs and to ensure against the possibility of interaction with other medications."
"Given the rate of obesity, the increase in assorted chronic illnesses and the poor dietary and lifestyle choices of many, it is likely that the pneumonia rate will continue to rise. But, you and your loved ones don't have to be caught in that rising tide. "
The foregoing article is derived from "Bottom Line's Daily Health News" , SEPTEMBER 7, 2006 a copyrighted e-mail magazine, and is reproduced here without permission for informational purposes only. Material within quotes is quoted directly from the referenced piece.
Silver Bullet Enterprises, Its' Owners and Employees take no responsibility for the content of this article. Even though the premis sounds logical, and the conclusions are similar to conclusions we have reached independently, we lack the expertise and credentials to make an "informed" evaluation of these statements.
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