Tag Archives: Chronic bronchitis

The Other Side of 40 – The Cardiopulmonary (Heart and Lungs) System – Changes, Challenges, Solutions

The fourth part of this series looks at your heart and lungs.

And now to today’s post.

One thing the heart and lung share in common is, left to their own devices, they could function normally for much longer than typically ends up occurring. It’s important to discuss because heart disease is the most common cause of death in people 65 and over, and it is also the most frequent cause of activity limitations. Let’s quickly review changes, challenges and solutions.

agingheart
Heart Changes: Coronary artery disease increases as your activity declines. Blockages accumulate on the inside of your arteries, and they harden as they lose their elasticity. Both of these factors resulting in lessened blood flow. High blood pressure increases with age, independently and as a result of this.
aginglungs
Lung Changes: The air sacs, airways, and tissues lose elasticity and become more rigid with age. In general however, serious disease notwithstanding, the respiratory system can serve one well throughout a very long life. However, if you’re a smoker or have lung disease (e.g. asthma, COPD), the reversible damage to the lungs starts becoming irreversible about age 35. At that time, you in effect begin tearing out useful lung tissue, which diminishes your respiratory capacity and sets you up for chronic bronchitis and cancer, as the body attempts to repair this damage and does so incorrectly.
Challenges: In the absence of structural disease or continuing to expose yourself to toxins (e.g. cigarettes), the effects of these changes on our health status need not be severe. The social implications of the effects of normal changes due to aging often would not hamper reasonable normal functioning. The real challenge is to avoid inhaling toxins that will harm you (duh, right?).
Solutions: This is much simpler than you’d think and mostly involves prevention. The biological changes can be greatly diminished and held off by a regular, strenuous exercise regimen that causes deep breathing and elevation of your heart rate over a period of time and by avoidance of toxins, especially cigarette smoke and fatty foods. Your heart and lungs are well situated for the long haul in the absence of bad genes and bad habits.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following SNC! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2018 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Tips to Limit Your Risk of Contracting The Most Deadly Diseases

early-death-pair

It is interesting and, even more, curious to hear everyone obsess over how esoteric and rare conditions can potentially kill you. Word to the wise: Common things happen commonly.  I’m going to make this a very simple post (with links to previous Straight, No Chaser posts covering the individual topics in greater detail). Let’s help you extend your life expectancy by offering very simple tips (three to five for each) to prevent and combat the five most common causes of death. This list is by no means comprehensive, but if you follow the achievable steps mentioned, you’ll be much better off than if you don’t.

Health_hazards

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are the five most common causes of death in the United States for the year ending 2010. (It takes awhile to compile data, but these are basically the leading causes year after year.) I’ve also included the number of annual deaths per condition.

 agingheart

Heart disease – Click here to learn early recognition of heart attacks.

  • Stop smoking and exposing yourself to second-hand smoke.
  • Exercise daily. Walk at least two miles each day. It’s a final common denomination of other problems and is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. You want your LDL (“bad cholesterol” levels) low and your HDL (“good cholesterol” levels) high. If your LDL and/or overall levels are high, it’s an immediate prompt to reduce your belly, change your diet and exercise more.
  • Limit your calories. Never supersize anything. Eat only until you’re full. Learn about healthy plate sizes.

cancer

Cancer – Cancer warrants a special comment to get screened! Early detection is the key to survival!

  • Don’t use tobacco in any form.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and less red meat.
  • Become physically active: strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at least five days a week.
  • Limit sun exposure and avoid tanning. (Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers.)
  • Limit alcohol intake to one to two drinks/day (women and men, respectively).

asthmarisk

Chronic lower respiratory diseases

  • Stop smoking and exposing yourself to second-hand smoke.
  • Get your home tested for radon.
  • Follow workplace guidelines for workplace exposures to particles known to cause cancer.

strokerecog
Stroke – Learn early detection.

  • Control your blood pressure. This is the most important risk factor in stroke prevention. High blood pressure increases your risk for a stroke four-fold.
  • Control your blood sugar levels. Diabetics have a 1.5 times higher risk of stroke.
  • Control your cholesterol.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk for a stroke between 1.5-2.5 times above the risk of non-smokers.
  • Control your weight through diet and exercise, which is bundled in each of the first three considerations.

mvc

Accidents

  • Learn CPR.
  • Wear safety belts (shoulder and lap) every trip. Seat belts reduce auto crashes by approximately 50%.
  • Stop all distracted driving (drinking, cell phone use, eating, etc.).
  • If you’re going to swim, and even if you know how to swim, take a formal lesson that focuses on life-saving maneuvers.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

risk

There is no fountain of youth. Your cure won’t be found in a bottle, a fad or any other quick fix. It really is about diet, exercise and risk management. The choices you make matter. Remember, although these tips were focused on prevention, early detection and treatment at the time of crisis give you the best chance to survive. Learn early detection of heart attacks and strokes, learn CPR, get screened for cancer and learn how to survive car crashes. It’s not that hard.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2018 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: The Frustration of Acute Bronchitis

bronchitis
Imagine what it looks like when someone gets hit in the jaw. There’s the redness, swelling from excess fluid in the area, warmth and pain. Those are the components of inflammation. Now imagine those symptoms in your lungs as you’re trying to breathe and deliver oxygen to the rest of your body. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a more frustrating diagnosis than bronchitis for both patients and physicians alike. I’ll get into the reasons for that soon enough, but a bit of explanation is definitely in order.

bronchitis1

Bronchitis is inflammation of a portion of the airways (the bronchi). Far and away, bronchitis is seen in smokers and after a viral, upper airway infection (e.g., a cold, the flu). In that last statement I slipped in two words that create the frustration regarding this condition: viral and smokers. There’s still more to come on what that means for you.
bronchitis-treatment-mammqctr
Everyone reading this has suffered from bronchitis at some point, and, based on what’s already been said, it’s easy to figure out what the symptoms would be. The inflammation of your airways leads to a cough, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, a mild fever and fatigue. If you have asthma, you’re likely to start wheezing. Another major source of frustration is even after the bronchitis has gone away or been treated, the cough stays around for up to an additional four weeks. This gives many the impression that they’re still sick, and leads them to demand that the doctor do something to “fix it.”

coughing-up-blood

There are a few more problems dealing with or treating acute bronchitis.

  • Bronchitis is actually the most common cause of coughing up blood. Coughing up blood or producing blood-tinged mucus tends to make people anxious, and they often start thinking of things like cancer. That train of thought makes some people want to take every test possible to rule out cancer, “just to be sure.” Now your physician knows better and isn’t going to do that unless you have additional symptoms or tell a story more consistent with cancer. That often leads to a lot of frustration and sometimes anger.

bronchitis smokers-lungs_1

  • Bronchitis is most often caused by smokers who don’t stop smoking even while they’re suffering. It is a very tense conversation (from both sides) when you return to the ER five days after being seen and diagnosed with bronchitis, and you’re complaining because you’re not better. Folks, even if your physician puts out the fire, if you continue to relight the match, it’ll continue to blaze.

bronchitis abx

  • Bronchitis is not pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs. In most cases where bronchitis has an infectious cause, that cause is a virus. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics. Your physician understands that you’re sick. Just because you’re sick and coughing, that doesn’t mean you need antibiotics or that antibiotics will cure you. Inappropriate antibiotic use is not without long-term complications that you should want to avoid. In most cases, assuming you remove the source of inflammation (e.g., cigarette or cigar smoke, dust, allergens), your symptoms will improve on their own within a week, and all you need is supportive therapy such as cough, fever and pain medicines along with fluids and rest. You must also practice good hygiene to avoid spreading any viruses that may be causing the bronchitis.
  • What complicates this is when your weakened state and continued exposure to whatever is causing the inflammation allows a bacterial infection to land on top of your bronchitis. Ask your physician if it’s possible that this is what is going on. S/he will know how to proceed, including potentially using antibiotics.

bronchitis and cigarettes

  • In a majority of cases, a diagnosis of bronchitis will be a big source of frustration for patients because, from the physician’s standpoint, bronchitis is an easily diagnosed condition due to an obvious cause (such as a cold or cigarette smoking). As such, your physician is likely not to order a lot—or any—tests. Now from the patient’s standpoint, don’t you just hate going to the physician’s office or ER when you’re sick and “nothing” gets done? Well, especially in an ER setting, tests are not used to make diagnoses. They’re meant to be ordered if the results will change the management of the condition or might lead to a change in what is done with you (e.g., admit you to the hospital). Most often, that’s just not going to be the case with bronchitis. Now if after 3–5 days symptoms haven’t improved, you’ve stopped smoking and the mucus you’re coughing up looks a certain way, there’s plenty that will be done differently in most cases.

Please don’t take any of this to mean that you shouldn’t be seen for bronchitis. My effort today is to temper your expectations and help you appreciate what your physician is looking for and thinking. Here are some specific signs and symptoms to look for when you’re suffering from acute bronchitis that indicates a level of seriousness warranting prompt attention:

  • You have a documented high fever or have had a documented fever for more than three days.
  • You have greenish or bloody mucus, or you are coughing up only blood.
  • You have shaking chills.
  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You have heart or lung disease (such as asthma or COPD/emphysema).

Over time, bronchitis can become chronic if the source of the inflammation isn’t removed. If you find yourself with ongoing symptoms for over three months, you will fall into a different category known as chronic bronchitis. Your physician will need to address additional considerations for you.
So often patients with bronchitis are looking for a “quick fix.” As is often the case, that fix is to be found in prevention. In this case, good hygiene and avoidance of smoke and other lung irritants can save you a lot of the shortness of breath and chest pain associated with bronchitis (pun intended).

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: COPD

COPDer

November is COPD Awareness Month. You already know a lot about COPD without realizing it or even having to think about it. You’ve seen patients walking around with the oxygen tanks or tubes in their noses. However, that’s just the extreme. COPD is the third or fourth leading cause of death in the US depending on the source, with millions of individuals diagnosed. You also know COPD and cancers are why your doctors always warn you against smoking in any form. You know smoking is the leading cause of this. This Straight, No Chaser provides a brief overview of COPD and answers some key questions.
emphysema
What Is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe and advances in severity over time.
Appreciate that air goes from your mouth or nose through the windpipe (trachea) through several branches of airways, eventually connecting to blood vessels meant to carry oxygen to the organs of your body. These same blood vessels drop off waste gas known as carbon dioxide, which we exhale with each breath out. In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following:

  • The airways and air sacs lose their elasticity. Elasticity is the stretchiness your lungs need to fill up with and push out air. In COPD, these sacs act less like a balloon and more like a lead pipe.
  • The airways make more mucus than usual, which clog them and make breathing more difficult. The inflammation caused by smoke and other irritants produce mucus. It’s not a good thing when instead of breathing air, you’re attempting to breathe a smoke-filled swamp of snot-like material.
  • The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed. Over time, inflammation can cause permanent changes in the walls of the airways to compensate for the environment you’ve created.
  • The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed. Ongoing inflammation overwhelms the body’s ability to repair itself, and eventually sheets of tissue in your airways are destroyed beyond repair, providing you with less tissue to exchange oxygen from the lungs to the blood vessels that carry oxygen through the body.

COPD
What causes COPD? 
Cigarette smoking is far and away the leading cause of COPD. Most of those with COPD are current or former smokers. Heredity, childhood respiratory infections, and long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust may contribute to or cause COPD.
COPD pix
I’ve been told I have bronchitis. Is that the same thing?
There’s acute bronchitis, and there’s chronic bronchitis. In the US, COPD refers to two separate but similar conditions, emphysema and chronic bronchitis; most with COPD have both conditions. Now if you have acute bronchitis, it means something (like and likely cigarette smoke) is currently inflaming your airways. Over time this can permanently damage the airways and produce an ongoing state of inflammation – chronic bronchitis – with airway wall thickening and increased mucus production within the lungs. Let the smoker beware.
How is this different from emphysema?
In emphysema, the walls between many of the air sacs are damaged, losing their shape and elasticity. This damage also can destroy the walls of the air sacs, leading to fewer, larger and less efficient air sacs instead of many more efficient tiny ones. If this happens, the amount of gas exchange in the lungs is reduced, meaning you’re not getting enough oxygen in you and enough carbon dioxide out of you.
copd sx
What are some symptoms of COPD?
COPD can cause coughing with mucus production, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, decreased ability to exert yourself and walk around. Even more symptoms may develop as a result of inadequate oxygen supply and inadequate carbon dioxide disposal.
How can I know if I have COPD?
One big problem with COPD is many have the disease and don’t know it until it starts becoming quite advanced. It’s safe to assume that if you’re a smoker and have difficulty breathing, you’re experiencing changes to your airways that aren’t in your best interest. You are advised to get evaluated. You are best advised to remove yourself from the source of the inflammation (in other words, stop smoking).
How does COPD affect my life?
For starters, it shortens it. It also markedly increases your cancer risk. At some point all the damage and changes to your lungs is going to cause some abnormality. Given this is the area you use to breathe, deliver oxygen to your organs and eliminate toxins from your body, all manners of things can go wrong, and they often do. COPD is a chronic, progressive disease. You may or may not pick up on the slow creep of diminishing ability to perform routine activities, or maybe you’ll just attribute them to aging (COPD occurs most often in middle-aged to elderly individuals). Once severe enough, COPD may prevent you from doing even basic activities like walking, breathing without difficulty, or taking care of yourself.
What’s the cure for this? 
Here’s the frightening part: we’re talking about irreversible lung tissue change and destruction. Once layers of your airways have been ripped out (figuratively), they aren’t coming back. The damage is done. Prevention is your best defense.
COPD treatment-chart
So how is it treated?
There is no real treatment without removing the trigger feeding the ongoing inflammation. In other words, you’ll have to stop smoking to attempt to arrest the progression. Additional measures involve support.

  • Supplemental oxygen may be needed to deliver enough oxygen to the tissues as an effort to combat the destruction and inflammation of tissue meant to facilitate oxygen exchange.
  • Medicines to reduce the inflammation and mucus may be prescribed.
  • Medicines to better open the airways past the clogging caused by inflammation and mucus may be prescribed.

Your physician will discuss these and other options. The truth is COPD has no cure. Once you’re discovered to have COPD, efforts switch to slowing the progression and implementing measures to improve the quality of your life within the parameters defined by the advancement of your disease.

Here is a short video from the National Institutes of Health.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Life Begins (To End) at 40 (Unless It Doesn’t) – The Cardiopulmonary (Heart and Lung) System

heart-disease

The fourth part of this series looks at your heart and lungs.

And now to today’s post.

One thing the heart and lung share in common is, left to their own devices, they could function normally for much longer than typically ends up occurring. It’s important to discuss because heart disease is the most common cause of death in people 65 and over, and it is also the most frequent cause of activity limitations. Let’s quickly review changes, challenges and solutions.

agingheart
Heart Changes: Coronary artery disease increases as your activity declines. Blockages accumulate on the inside of your arteries, and they harden as they lose their elasticity. Both of these factors resulting in lessened blood flow. High blood pressure increases with age, independently and as a result of this.
aginglungs
Lung Changes: The air sacs, airways, and tissues lose elasticity and become more rigid with age. In general however, serious disease notwithstanding, the respiratory system can serve one well throughout a very long life. However, if you’re a smoker or have lung disease (e.g. asthma, COPD), the reversible damage to the lungs starts becoming irreversible about age 35. At that time, you in effect begin tearing out useful lung tissue, which diminishes your respiratory capacity and sets you up for chronic bronchitis and cancer, as the body attempts to repair this damage and does so incorrectly.
Challenges: In the absence of structural disease or continuing to expose yourself to toxins (e.g. cigarettes), the effects of these changes on our health status need not be severe. The social implications of the effects of normal changes due to aging often would not hamper reasonable normal functioning. The real challenge is to avoid inhaling toxins that will harm you (duh, right?).
Solutions: This is much simpler than you’d think and mostly involves prevention. The biological changes can be greatly diminished and held off by a regular, strenuous exercise regimen that causes deep breathing and elevation of your heart rate over a period of time and by avoidance of toxins, especially cigarette smoke and fatty foods. Your heart and lungs are well situated for the long haul in the absence of bad genes and bad habits.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Tips to Limit Your Risk of Contracting The Most Deadly Diseases

early-death-pair

It is interesting and, even more, curious to hear everyone obsess over how esoteric and rare conditions can potentially kill you. Word to the wise: Common things happen commonly.  I’m going to make this a very simple post (with links to previous Straight, No Chaser posts covering the individual topics in greater detail). Let’s help you extend your life expectancy by offering very simple tips (three to five for each) to prevent and combat the five most common causes of death. This list is by no means comprehensive, but if you follow the achievable steps mentioned, you’ll be much better off than if you don’t.

Health_hazards

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are the five most common causes of death in the United States for the year ending 2010. (It takes awhile to compile data, but these are basically the leading causes year after year.) I’ve also included the number of annual deaths per condition.

 agingheart

Heart disease – Click here to learn early recognition of heart attacks.

  • Stop smoking and exposing yourself to second-hand smoke.
  • Exercise daily. Walk at least two miles each day. It’s a final common denomination of other problems and is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. You want your LDL (“bad cholesterol” levels) low and your HDL (“good cholesterol” levels) high. If your LDL and/or overall levels are high, it’s an immediate prompt to reduce your belly, change your diet and exercise more.
  • Limit your calories. Never supersize anything. Eat only until you’re full. Learn about healthy plate sizes.

cancer

Cancer – Cancer warrants a special comment to get screened! Early detection is the key to survival!

  • Don’t use tobacco in any form.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and less red meat.
  • Become physically active: strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at least five days a week.
  • Limit sun exposure and avoid tanning. (Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers.)
  • Limit alcohol intake to one to two drinks/day (women and men, respectively).

asthmarisk

Chronic lower respiratory diseases

  • Stop smoking and exposing yourself to second-hand smoke.
  • Get your home tested for radon.
  • Follow workplace guidelines for workplace exposures to particles known to cause cancer.

strokerecog
Stroke – Learn early detection.

  • Control your blood pressure. This is the most important risk factor in stroke prevention. High blood pressure increases your risk for a stroke four-fold.
  • Control your blood sugar levels. Diabetics have a 1.5 times higher risk of stroke.
  • Control your cholesterol.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk for a stroke between 1.5-2.5 times above the risk of non-smokers.
  • Control your weight through diet and exercise, which is bundled in each of the first three considerations.

mvc

Accidents

  • Learn CPR.
  • Wear safety belts (shoulder and lap) every trip. Seat belts reduce auto crashes by approximately 50%.
  • Stop all distracted driving (drinking, cell phone use, eating, etc.).
  • If you’re going to swim, and even if you know how to swim, take a formal lesson that focuses on life-saving maneuvers.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

risk

There is no fountain of youth. Your cure won’t be found in a bottle, a fad or any other quick fix. It really is about diet, exercise and risk management. The choices you make matter. Remember, although these tips were focused on prevention, early detection and treatment at the time of crisis give you the best chance to survive. Learn early detection of heart attacks and strokes, learn CPR, get screened for cancer and learn how to survive car crashes. It’s not that hard.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: The Frustration of Acute Bronchitis

 
bronchitis
Imagine what it looks like when someone gets hit in the jaw. There’s the redness, swelling from excess fluid in the area, warmth and pain. Those are the components of inflammation. Now imagine those symptoms in your lungs as you’re trying to breathe and deliver oxygen to the rest of your body. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a more frustrating diagnosis than bronchitis for both patients and physicians alike. I’ll get into the reasons for that soon enough, but a bit of explanation is definitely in order.

bronchitis1

Bronchitis is inflammation of a portion of the airways (the bronchi). Far and away, bronchitis is seen in smokers and after a viral, upper airway infection (e.g., a cold, the flu). In that last statement I slipped in two words that create the frustration regarding this condition: viral and smokers. There’s still more to come on what that means for you.
bronchitis-treatment-mammqctr
Everyone reading this has suffered from bronchitis at some point, and, based on what’s already been said, it’s easy to figure out what the symptoms would be. The inflammation of your airways leads to a cough, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, a mild fever and fatigue. If you have asthma, you’re likely to start wheezing. Another major source of frustration is even after the bronchitis has gone away or been treated, the cough stays around for up to an additional four weeks. This gives many the impression that they’re still sick, and leads them to demand that the doctor do something to “fix it.”

coughing-up-blood

There are a few more problems dealing with or treating acute bronchitis.

  • Bronchitis is actually the most common cause of coughing up blood. Coughing up blood or producing blood-tinged mucus tends to make people anxious, and they often start thinking of things like cancer. That train of thought makes some people want to take every test possible to rule out cancer, “just to be sure.” Now your physician knows better and isn’t going to do that unless you have additional symptoms or tell a story more consistent with cancer. That often leads to a lot of frustration and sometimes anger.

bronchitis smokers-lungs_1

  • Bronchitis is most often caused by smokers who don’t stop smoking even while they’re suffering. It is a very tense conversation (from both sides) when you return to the ER five days after being seen and diagnosed with bronchitis, and you’re complaining because you’re not better. Folks, even if your physician puts out the fire, if you continue to relight the match, it’ll continue to blaze.

bronchitis abx

  • Bronchitis is not pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs. In most cases where bronchitis has an infectious cause, that cause is a virus. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics. Your physician understands that you’re sick. Just because you’re sick and coughing, that doesn’t mean you need antibiotics or that antibiotics will cure you. Inappropriate antibiotic use is not without long-term complications that you should want to avoid. In most cases, assuming you remove the source of inflammation (e.g., cigarette or cigar smoke, dust, allergens), your symptoms will improve on their own within a week, and all you need is supportive therapy such as cough, fever and pain medicines along with fluids and rest. You must also practice good hygiene to avoid spreading any viruses that may be causing the bronchitis.
  • What complicates this is when your weakened state and continued exposure to whatever is causing the inflammation allows a bacterial infection to land on top of your bronchitis. Ask your physician if it’s possible that this is what is going on. S/he will know how to proceed, including potentially using antibiotics.

bronchitis and cigarettes

  • In a majority of cases, a diagnosis of bronchitis will be a big source of frustration for patients because, from the physician’s standpoint, bronchitis is an easily diagnosed condition due to an obvious cause (such as a cold or cigarette smoking). As such, your physician is likely not to order a lot—or any—tests. Now from the patient’s standpoint, don’t you just hate going to the physician’s office or ER when you’re sick and “nothing” gets done? Well, especially in an ER setting, tests are not used to make diagnoses. They’re meant to be ordered if the results will change the management of the condition or might lead to a change in what is done with you (e.g., admit you to the hospital). Most often, that’s just not going to be the case with bronchitis. Now if after 3–5 days symptoms haven’t improved, you’ve stopped smoking and the mucus you’re coughing up looks a certain way, there’s plenty that will be done differently in most cases.

Please don’t take any of this to mean that you shouldn’t be seen for bronchitis. My effort today is to temper your expectations and help you appreciate what your physician is looking for and thinking. Here are some specific signs and symptoms to look for when you’re suffering from acute bronchitis that indicates a level of seriousness warranting prompt attention:

  • You have a documented high fever or have had a documented fever for more than three days.
  • You have greenish or bloody mucus, or you are coughing up only blood.
  • You have shaking chills.
  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You have heart or lung disease (such as asthma or COPD/emphysema).

Over time, bronchitis can become chronic if the source of the inflammation isn’t removed. If you find yourself with ongoing symptoms for over three months, you will fall into a different category known as chronic bronchitis. Your physician will need to address additional considerations for you.
So often patients with bronchitis are looking for a “quick fix.” As is often the case, that fix is to be found in prevention. In this case, good hygiene and avoidance of smoke and other lung irritants can save you a lot of the shortness of breath and chest pain associated with bronchitis (pun intended).
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: COPD

COPDer

November is COPD Awareness Month. You already know a lot about COPD without realizing it or even having to think about it. You’ve seen patients walking around with the oxygen tanks or tubes in their noses. However, that’s just the extreme. COPD is the third or fourth leading cause of death in the US depending on the source, with millions of individuals diagnosed. You also know COPD and cancers are why your doctors always warn you against smoking in any form. You know smoking is the leading cause of this. This Straight, No Chaser provides a brief overview of COPD and answers some key questions.
emphysema
What Is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe and advances in severity over time.
Appreciate that air goes from your mouth or nose through the windpipe (trachea) through several branches of airways, eventually connecting to blood vessels meant to carry oxygen to the organs of your body. These same blood vessels drop off waste gas known as carbon dioxide, which we exhale with each breath out. In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following:

  • The airways and air sacs lose their elasticity. Elasticity is the stretchiness your lungs need to fill up with and push out air. In COPD, these sacs act less like a balloon and more like a lead pipe.
  • The airways make more mucus than usual, which clog them and make breathing more difficult. The inflammation caused by smoke and other irritants produce mucus. It’s not a good thing when instead of breathing air, you’re attempting to breathe a smoke-filled swamp of snot-like material.
  • The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed. Over time, inflammation can cause permanent changes in the walls of the airways to compensate for the environment you’ve created.
  • The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed. Ongoing inflammation overwhelms the body’s ability to repair itself, and eventually sheets of tissue in your airways are destroyed beyond repair, providing you with less tissue to exchange oxygen from the lungs to the blood vessels that carry oxygen through the body.

COPD
What causes COPD? 
Cigarette smoking is far and away the leading cause of COPD. Most of those with COPD are current or former smokers. Heredity, childhood respiratory infections, and long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust may contribute to or cause COPD.
COPD pix
I’ve been told I have bronchitis. Is that the same thing?
There’s acute bronchitis, and there’s chronic bronchitis. In the US, COPD refers to two separate but similar conditions, emphysema and chronic bronchitis; most with COPD have both conditions. Now if you have acute bronchitis, it means something (like and likely cigarette smoke) is currently inflaming your airways. Over time this can permanently damage the airways and produce an ongoing state of inflammation – chronic bronchitis – with airway wall thickening and increased mucus production within the lungs. Let the smoker beware.
How is this different from emphysema?
In emphysema, the walls between many of the air sacs are damaged, losing their shape and elasticity. This damage also can destroy the walls of the air sacs, leading to fewer, larger and less efficient air sacs instead of many more efficient tiny ones. If this happens, the amount of gas exchange in the lungs is reduced, meaning you’re not getting enough oxygen in you and enough carbon dioxide out of you.
copd sx
What are some symptoms of COPD?
COPD can cause coughing with mucus production, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, decreased ability to exert yourself and walk around. Even more symptoms may develop as a result of inadequate oxygen supply and inadequate carbon dioxide disposal.
How can I know if I have COPD?
One big problem with COPD is many have the disease and don’t know it until it starts becoming quite advanced. It’s safe to assume that if you’re a smoker and have difficulty breathing, you’re experiencing changes to your airways that aren’t in your best interest. You are advised to get evaluated. You are best advised to remove yourself from the source of the inflammation (in other words, stop smoking).
How does COPD affect my life?
For starters, it shortens it. It also markedly increases your cancer risk. At some point all the damage and changes to your lungs is going to cause some abnormality. Given this is the area you use to breathe, deliver oxygen to your organs and eliminate toxins from your body, all manners of things can go wrong, and they often do. COPD is a chronic, progressive disease. You may or may not pick up on the slow creep of diminishing ability to perform routine activities, or maybe you’ll just attribute them to aging (COPD occurs most often in middle-aged to elderly individuals). Once severe enough, COPD may prevent you from doing even basic activities like walking, breathing without difficulty, or taking care of yourself.
What’s the cure for this? 
Here’s the frightening part: we’re talking about irreversible lung tissue change and destruction. Once layers of your airways have been ripped out (figuratively), they aren’t coming back. The damage is done. Prevention is your best defense.
COPD treatment-chart
So how is it treated?
There is no real treatment without removing the trigger feeding the ongoing inflammation. In other words, you’ll have to stop smoking to attempt to arrest the progression. Additional measures involve support.

  • Supplemental oxygen may be needed to deliver enough oxygen to the tissues as an effort to combat the destruction and inflammation of tissue meant to facilitate oxygen exchange.
  • Medicines to reduce the inflammation and mucus may be prescribed.
  • Medicines to better open the airways past the clogging caused by inflammation and mucus may be prescribed.

Your physician will discuss these and other options. The truth is COPD has no cure. Once you’re discovered to have COPD, efforts switch to slowing the progression and implementing measures to improve the quality of your life within the parameters defined by the advancement of your disease.

Here is a short video from the National Institutes of Health.


Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Life Begins (To End) at 40 (Unless It Doesn’t) – The Cardiopulmonary (Heart and Lung) System

heart-disease

The fourth part of this series looks at your heart and lungs.

And now to today’s post.

One thing the heart and lung share in common is, left to their own devices, they could function normally for much longer than typically ends up occurring. It’s important to discuss because heart disease is the most common cause of death in people 65 and over, and it is also the most frequent cause of activity limitations. Let’s quickly review changes, challenges and solutions.

agingheart
Heart Changes: Coronary artery disease increases as your activity declines. Blockages accumulate on the inside of your arteries, and they harden as they lose their elasticity. Both of these factors resulting in lessened blood flow. High blood pressure increases with age, independently and as a result of this.
aginglungs
Lung Changes: The air sacs, airways, and tissues lose elasticity and become more rigid with age. In general however, serious disease notwithstanding, the respiratory system can serve one well throughout a very long life. However, if you’re a smoker or have lung disease (e.g. asthma, COPD), the reversible damage to the lungs starts becoming irreversible about age 35. At that time, you in effect begin tearing out useful lung tissue, which diminishes your respiratory capacity and sets you up for chronic bronchitis and cancer, as the body attempts to repair this damage and does so incorrectly.
Challenges: In the absence of structural disease or continuing to expose yourself to toxins (e.g. cigarettes), the effects of these changes on our health status need not be severe. The social implications of the effects of normal changes due to aging often would not hamper reasonable normal functioning. The real challenge is to avoid inhaling toxins that will harm you (duh, right?).
Solutions: This is much simpler than you’d think and mostly involves prevention. The biological changes can be greatly diminished and held off by a regular, strenuous exercise regimen that causes deep breathing and elevation of your heart rate over a period of time and by avoidance of toxins, especially cigarette smoke and fatty foods. Your heart and lungs are well situated for the long haul in the absence of bad genes and bad habits.
Feel free to ask any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Tips to Limit Your Risk of Contracting The Most Deadly Diseases

early-death-pair

It is interesting and, even more, curious to hear everyone obsess over how esoteric and rare conditions can potentially kill you. Word to the wise: Common things happen commonly.  I’m going to make this a very simple post (with links to previous Straight, No Chaser posts covering the individual topics in greater detail). Let’s help you extend your life expectancy by offering very simple tips (three to five for each) to prevent and combat the five most common causes of death. This list is by no means comprehensive, but if you follow the achievable steps mentioned, you’ll be much better off than if you don’t.

Health_hazards

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are the five most common causes of death in the United States for the year ending 2010. (It takes awhile to compile data, but these are basically the leading causes year after year.) I’ve also included the number of annual deaths per condition.

 agingheart

Heart disease – Click here to learn early recognition of heart attacks.

  • Stop smoking and exposing yourself to second-hand smoke.
  • Exercise daily. Walk at least two miles each day. It’s a final common denomination of other problems and is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. You want your LDL (“bad cholesterol” levels) low and your HDL (“good cholesterol” levels) high. If your LDL and/or overall levels are high, it’s an immediate prompt to reduce your belly, change your diet and exercise more.
  • Limit your calories. Never supersize anything. Eat only until you’re full. Learn about healthy plate sizes.

cancer

Cancer – Cancer warrants a special comment to get screened! Early detection is the key to survival!

  • Don’t use tobacco in any form.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and less red meat.
  • Become physically active: strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at least five days a week.
  • Limit sun exposure and avoid tanning. (Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers.)
  • Limit alcohol intake to one to two drinks/day (women and men, respectively).

asthmarisk

Chronic lower respiratory diseases

  • Stop smoking and exposing yourself to second-hand smoke.
  • Get your home tested for radon.
  • Follow workplace guidelines for workplace exposures to particles known to cause cancer.

strokerecog
Stroke – Learn early detection.

  • Control your blood pressure. This is the most important risk factor in stroke prevention. High blood pressure increases your risk for a stroke four-fold.
  • Control your blood sugar levels. Diabetics have a 1.5 times higher risk of stroke.
  • Control your cholesterol.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk for a stroke between 1.5-2.5 times above the risk of non-smokers.
  • Control your weight through diet and exercise, which is bundled in each of the first three considerations.

mvc

Accidents

  • Learn CPR.
  • Wear safety belts (shoulder and lap) every trip. Seat belts reduce auto crashes by approximately 50%.
  • Stop all distracted driving (drinking, cell phone use, eating, etc.).
  • If you’re going to swim, and even if you know how to swim, take a formal lesson that focuses on life-saving maneuvers.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

risk

There is no fountain of youth. Your cure won’t be found in a bottle, a fad or any other quick fix. It really is about diet, exercise and risk management. The choices you make matter. Remember, although these tips were focused on prevention, early detection and treatment at the time of crisis give you the best chance to survive. Learn early detection of heart attacks and strokes, learn CPR, get screened for cancer and learn how to survive car crashes. It’s not that hard.
Feel free to ask any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: COPD

COPDer

November is COPD Awareness Month. You already know a lot about COPD without realizing it or even having to think about it. You’ve seen patients walking around with the oxygen tanks or tubes in their noses. However, that’s just the extreme. COPD is the third or fourth leading cause of death in the US depending on the source, with millions of individuals diagnosed. You also know COPD and cancers are why your doctors always warn you against smoking in any form. You know smoking is the leading cause of this. This Straight, No Chaser provides a brief overview of COPD and answers some key questions.
emphysema
What Is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe and advances in severity over time.
Appreciate that air goes from your mouth or nose through the windpipe (trachea) through several branches of airways, eventually connecting to blood vessels meant to carry oxygen to the organs of your body. These same blood vessels drop off waste gas known as carbon dioxide, which we exhale with each breath out. In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following:

  • The airways and air sacs lose their elasticity. Elasticity is the stretchiness your lungs need to fill up with and push out air. In COPD, these sacs act less like a balloon and more like a lead pipe.
  • The airways make more mucus than usual, which clog them and make breathing more difficult. The inflammation caused by smoke and other irritants produce mucus. It’s not a good thing when instead of breathing air, you’re attempting to breathe a smoke-filled swamp of snot-like material.
  • The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed. Over time, inflammation can cause permanent changes in the walls of the airways to compensate for the environment you’ve created.
  • The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed. Ongoing inflammation overwhelms the body’s ability to repair itself, and eventually sheets of tissue in your airways are destroyed beyond repair, providing you with less tissue to exchange oxygen from the lungs to the blood vessels that carry oxygen through the body.

COPD
What causes COPD? 
Cigarette smoking is far and away the leading cause of COPD. Most of those with COPD are current or former smokers. Heredity, childhood respiratory infections, and long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust may contribute to or cause COPD.
COPD pix
I’ve been told I have bronchitis. Is that the same thing?
There’s acute bronchitis, and there’s chronic bronchitis. In the US, COPD refers to two separate but similar conditions, emphysema and chronic bronchitis; most with COPD have both conditions. Now if you have acute bronchitis, it means something (like and likely cigarette smoke) is currently inflaming your airways. Over time this can permanently damage the airways and produce an ongoing state of inflammation – chronic bronchitis – with airway wall thickening and increased mucus production within the lungs. Let the smoker beware.
How is this different from emphysema?
In emphysema, the walls between many of the air sacs are damaged, losing their shape and elasticity. This damage also can destroy the walls of the air sacs, leading to fewer, larger and less efficient air sacs instead of many more efficient tiny ones. If this happens, the amount of gas exchange in the lungs is reduced, meaning you’re not getting enough oxygen in you and enough carbon dioxide out of you.
copd sx
What are some symptoms of COPD?
COPD can cause coughing with mucus production, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, decreased ability to exert yourself and walk around. Even more symptoms may develop as a result of inadequate oxygen supply and inadequate carbon dioxide disposal.
How can I know if I have COPD?
One big problem with COPD is many have the disease and don’t know it until it starts becoming quite advanced. It’s safe to assume that if you’re a smoker and have difficulty breathing, you’re experiencing changes to your airways that aren’t in your best interest. You are advised to get evaluated. You are best advised to remove yourself from the source of the inflammation (in other words, stop smoking).
How does COPD affect my life?
For starters, it shortens it. It also markedly increases your cancer risk. At some point all the damage and changes to your lungs is going to cause some abnormality. Given this is the area you use to breathe, deliver oxygen to your organs and eliminate toxins from your body, all manners of things can go wrong, and they often do. COPD is a chronic, progressive disease. You may or may not pick up on the slow creep of diminishing ability to perform routine activities, or maybe you’ll just attribute them to aging (COPD occurs most often in middle-aged to elderly individuals). Once severe enough, COPD may prevent you from doing even basic activities like walking, breathing without difficulty, or taking care of yourself.
What’s the cure for this? 
Here’s the frightening part: we’re talking about irreversible lung tissue change and destruction. Once layers of your airways have been ripped out (figuratively), they aren’t coming back. The damage is done. Prevention is your best defense.
COPD treatment-chart
So how is it treated?
There is no real treatment without removing the trigger feeding the ongoing inflammation. In other words, you’ll have to stop smoking to attempt to arrest the progression. Additional measures involve support.

  • Supplemental oxygen may be needed to deliver enough oxygen to the tissues as an effort to combat the destruction and inflammation of tissue meant to facilitate oxygen exchange.
  • Medicines to reduce the inflammation and mucus may be prescribed.
  • Medicines to better open the airways past the clogging caused by inflammation and mucus may be prescribed.

Your physician will discuss these and other options. The truth is COPD has no cure. Once you’re discovered to have COPD, efforts switch to slowing the progression and implementing measures to improve the quality of your life within the parameters defined by the advancement of your disease.

Here is a short video from the National Institutes of Health.


Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, AmazonBarnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

Straight, No Chaser: Life Begins (To End) at 40 (Unless It Doesn’t) – The Cardiopulmonary (Heart and Lung) System

heart-disease

The fourth part of this series looks at your heart and lungs.

And now to today’s post.

One thing the heart and lung share in common is, left to their own devices, they could function normally for much longer than typically ends up occurring. It’s important to discuss because heart disease is the most common cause of death in people 65 and over, and it is also the most frequent cause of activity limitations. Let’s quickly review changes, challenges and solutions.

agingheart
Heart Changes: Coronary artery disease increases as your activity declines. Blockages accumulate on the inside of your arteries, and they harden as they lose their elasticity. Both of these factors resulting in lessened blood flow. High blood pressure increases with age, independently and as a result of this.
aginglungs
Lung Changes: The air sacs, airways, and tissues lose elasticity and become more rigid with age. In general however, serious disease notwithstanding, the respiratory system can serve one well throughout a very long life. However, if you’re a smoker or have lung disease (e.g. asthma, COPD), the reversible damage to the lungs starts becoming irreversible about age 35. At that time, you in effect begin tearing out useful lung tissue, which diminishes your respiratory capacity and sets you up for chronic bronchitis and cancer, as the body attempts to repair this damage and does so incorrectly.
Challenges: In the absence of structural disease or continuing to expose yourself to toxins (e.g. cigarettes), the effects of these changes on our health status need not be severe. The social implications of the effects of normal changes due to aging often would not hamper reasonable normal functioning. The real challenge is to avoid inhaling toxins that will harm you (duh, right?).
Solutions: This is much simpler than you’d think and mostly involves prevention. The biological changes can be greatly diminished and held off by a regular, strenuous exercise regimen that causes deep breathing and elevation of your heart rate over a period of time and by avoidance of toxins, especially cigarette smoke and fatty foods. Your heart and lungs are well situated for the long haul in the absence of bad genes and bad habits.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, AmazonBarnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright, Sterling Initiatives, LLC. 2013-2015

Straight, No Chaser: Tips to Limit Your Risk of Contracting The Most Deadly Diseases

early-death-pair

It is interesting and, even more, curious to hear everyone obsess over how esoteric and rare conditions can potentially kill you. Word to the wise: Common things happen commonly.  I’m going to make this a very simple post (with links to previous Straight, No Chaser posts covering the individual topics in greater detail). Let’s help you extend your life expectancy by offering very simple tips (three to five for each) to prevent and combat the five most common causes of death. This list is by no means comprehensive, but if you follow the achievable steps mentioned, you’ll be much better off than if you don’t.

Health_hazards

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are the five most common causes of death in the United States for the year ending 2010. (It takes awhile to compile data, but these are basically the leading causes year after year.) I’ve also included the number of annual deaths per condition.

  • Heart disease (e.g., heart attack): 597,689
  • Cancer (all cases): 574,743
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases (e.g., asthma, COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis): 138,080
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859

 agingheart

Heart disease – Click here to learn early recognition of heart attacks.

  • Stop smoking and exposing yourself to second-hand smoke.
  • Exercise daily. Walk at least two miles each day. It’s a final common denomination of other problems and is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. You want your LDL (“bad cholesterol” levels) low and your HDL (“good cholesterol” levels) high. If your LDL and/or overall levels are high, it’s an immediate prompt to reduce your belly, change your diet and exercise more.
  • Limit your calories. Never supersize anything. Eat only until you’re full. Learn about healthy plate sizes.

cancer

Cancer – Cancer warrants a special comment to get screened! Early detection is the key to survival!

  • Don’t use tobacco in any form.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and less red meat.
  • Become physically active: strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at least five days a week.
  • Limit sun exposure and avoid tanning. (Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers.)
  • Limit alcohol intake to one to two drinks/day (women and men, respectively).

asthmarisk

Chronic lower respiratory diseases

  • Stop smoking and exposing yourself to second-hand smoke.
  • Get your home tested for radon.
  • Follow workplace guidelines for workplace exposures to particles known to cause cancer.

strokerecog
Stroke – Learn early detection.

  • Control your blood pressure. This is the most important risk factor in stroke prevention. High blood pressure increases your risk for a stroke four-fold.
  • Control your blood sugar levels. Diabetics have a 1.5 times higher risk of stroke.
  • Control your cholesterol.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk for a stroke between 1.5-2.5 times above the risk of non-smokers.
  • Control your weight through diet and exercise, which is bundled in each of the first three considerations.

mvc

Accidents

  • Learn CPR.
  • Wear safety belts (shoulder and lap) every trip. Seat belts reduce auto crashes by approximately 50%.
  • Stop all distracted driving (drinking, cell phone use, eating, etc.).
  • If you’re going to swim, and even if you know how to swim, take a formal lesson that focuses on life-saving maneuvers.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

risk

There is no fountain of youth. Your cure won’t be found in a bottle, a fad or any other quick fix. It really is about diet, exercise and risk management. The choices you make matter. Remember, although these tips were focused on prevention, early detection and treatment at the time of crisis give you the best chance to survive. Learn early detection of heart attacks and strokes, learn CPR, get screened for cancer and learn how to survive car crashes. It’s not that hard.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what  http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2015 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: The Frustration of Acute Bronchitis


bronchitis

Imagine what it looks like when someone gets hit in the jaw. There’s the redness, swelling from excess fluid in the area, warmth and pain. Those are the components of inflammation. Now imagine those symptoms in your lungs as you’re trying to breath and deliver oxygen to the rest of your body. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a more frustrating diagnosis than bronchitis for both patients and physicians alike. I’ll get into the reasons for that soon enough, but a bit of explanation is definitely in order.

bronchitis1

Bronchitis is inflammation of a portion of the airways (the bronchi). Far and away, bronchitis is seen in smokers and after a viral, upper airway infection (e.g., a cold, the flu). In that last statement I slipped in two words that create the frustration regarding this condition: viral and smokers. There’s still more to come on what that means for you.
bronchitis-treatment-mammqctr
Everyone reading this has suffered from bronchitis at some point, and, based on what’s already been said, it’s easy to figure out what the symptoms would be. The inflammation of your airways leads to a cough, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, a mild fever and fatigue. If you have asthma, you’re likely to start wheezing. Another major source of frustration is even after the bronchitis has gone away or been treated, the cough stays around for up to an additional four weeks. This gives many the impression that they’re still sick, and leads them to demand that the doctor do something to “fix it.”

coughing-up-blood

There are a few more problems dealing with or treating acute bronchitis.

  • Bronchitis is actually the most common cause of coughing up blood. Coughing up blood or producing blood-tinged mucus tends to make people anxious, and they often start thinking of things like cancer. That train of thought makes some people want to take every test possible to rule out cancer, “just to be sure.” Now your physician knows better and isn’t going to do that unless you have additional symptoms or tell a story more consistent with cancer. That often leads to a lot of frustration and sometimes anger.

bronchitis smokers-lungs_1

  • Bronchitis is most often caused by smokers who don’t stop smoking even while they’re suffering. It is a very tense conversation (from both sides) when you return to the ER five days after being seen and diagnosed with bronchitis, and you’re complaining because you’re not better. Folks, even if your physician puts out the fire, if you continue to relight the match, it’ll continue to blaze.

bronchitis abx

  • Bronchitis is not pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs. In most cases where bronchitis has an infectious cause, that cause is a virus. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics. Your physician understands that you’re sick. Just because you’re sick and coughing, that doesn’t mean you need antibiotics or that antibiotics will cure you. Inappropriate antibiotic use is not without long-term complications that you should want to avoid. In most cases, assuming you remove the source of inflammation (e.g., cigarette or cigar smoke, dust, allergens), your symptoms will improve on their own within a week, and all you need is supportive therapy such as cough, fever and pain medicines along with fluids and rest. You must also practice good hygiene to avoid spreading any viruses that may be causing the bronchitis.
  • What complicates this is when your weakened state and continued exposure to whatever is causing the inflammation allows a bacterial infection to land on top of your bronchitis. Ask your physician if it’s possible that this is what is going on. S/he will know how to proceed, including potentially using antibiotics.

bronchitis and cigarettes

  • In a majority of cases, a diagnosis of bronchitis will be a big source of frustration for patients because, from the physician’s standpoint, bronchitis is an easily diagnosed condition due to an obvious cause (such as a cold or cigarette smoking). As such, your physician is likely not to order a lot—or any—tests. Now from the patient’s standpoint, don’t you just hate going to the physician’s office or ER when you’re sick and “nothing” gets done? Well, especially in an ER setting, tests are not used to make diagnoses. They’re meant to be ordered if the results will change the management of the condition or might lead to a change in what is done with you (e.g., admit you to the hospital). Most often, that’s just not going to be the case with bronchitis. Now if after 3–5 days symptoms haven’t improved, you’ve stopped smoking and the mucus you’re coughing up looks a certain way, there’s plenty that will be done differently in most cases.

Please don’t take any of this to mean that you shouldn’t be seen for bronchitis. My effort today is to temper your expectations and help you appreciate what your physician is looking for and thinking. Here are some specific signs and symptoms to look for when you’re suffering from acute bronchitis that indicates a level of seriousness warranting prompt attention:

  • You have a documented high fever or have had a documented fever for more than three days.
  • You have greenish or bloody mucus, or you are coughing up only blood.
  • You have shaking chills.
  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You have heart or lung disease (such as asthma or COPD/emphysema).

Over time, bronchitis can become chronic if the source of the inflammation isn’t removed. If you find yourself with ongoing symptoms for over three months, you will fall into a different category known as chronic bronchitis. Your physician will need to address additional considerations for you.
So often patients with bronchitis are looking for a “quick fix.” As is often the case, that fix is to be found in prevention. In this case, good hygiene and avoidance of smoke and other lung irritants can save you a lot of the shortness of breath and chest pain associated with bronchitis (pun intended).
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of 844-SMA-TALK and http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA). Enjoy some of our favorite posts and frequently asked questions as well as a daily note explaining the benefits of SMA membership. Please share our page with your Friends on WordPress, on Facebook at SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
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Straight, No Chaser: COPD

COPDer

You already know a lot about COPD without realizing it or even having to think about it. You’ve seen patients walking around with the oxygen tanks or tubes in their noses. However, that’s just the extreme. COPD is the third or fourth leading cause of death in the US depending on the source, with millions of individuals diagnosed. You also know COPD and cancers are why your doctors always warn you against smoking in any form. You know smoking is the leading cause of this. This Straight, No Chaser provides a brief overview of COPD and answers some key questions.

emphysema

What Is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe and advances in severity over time.
Appreciate that air goes from your mouth or nose through the windpipe (trachea) through several branches of airways, eventually connecting to blood vessels meant to carry oxygen to the organs of your body. These same blood vessels drop off waste gas known as carbon dioxide, which we exhale with each breath out. In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following:

  • The airways and air sacs lose their elasticity. Elasticity is the stretchiness your lungs need to fill up with and push out air. In COPD, these sacs act less like a balloon and more like a lead pipe.
  • The airways make more mucus than usual, which clog them and make breathing more difficult. The inflammation caused by smoke and other irritants produce mucus. It’s not a good thing when instead of breathing air, you’re attempting to breathe a smoke-filled swamp of snot-like material.
  • The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed. Over time, inflammation can cause permanent changes in the walls of the airways to compensate for the environment you’ve created.
  • The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed. Ongoing inflammation overwhelms the body’s ability to repair itself, and eventually sheets of tissue in your airways are destroyed beyond repair, providing you with less tissue to exchange oxygen from the lungs to the blood vessels that carry oxygen through the body.

 COPD

What causes COPD?
Cigarette smoking is far and away the leading cause of COPD. Most of those with COPD are current or former smokers. Heredity, childhood respiratory infections, and long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust may contribute to or cause COPD.

COPD pix

I’ve been told I have bronchitis. Is that the same thing?
There’s acute bronchitis, and there’s chronic bronchitis. In the US, COPD refers to two separate but similar conditions, emphysema and chronic bronchitis; most with COPD have both conditions. Now if you have acute bronchitis, it means something (like and likely cigarette smoke) is currently inflaming your airways. Over time this can permanently damage the airways and produce an ongoing state of inflammation – chronic bronchitis – with airway wall thickening and increased mucus production within the lungs. Let the smoker beware.
How is this different from emphysema?
In emphysema, the walls between many of the air sacs are damaged, losing their shape and elasticity. This damage also can destroy the walls of the air sacs, leading to fewer, larger and less efficient air sacs instead of many more efficient tiny ones. If this happens, the amount of gas exchange in the lungs is reduced, meaning you’re not getting enough oxygen in you and enough carbon dioxide out of you.

 copd sx

What are some symptoms of COPD?
COPD can cause coughing with mucus production, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, decreased ability to exert yourself and walk around. Even more symptoms may develop as a result of inadequate oxygen supply and inadequate carbon dioxide disposal.
How can I know if I have COPD?
One big problem with COPD is many have the disease and don’t know it until it starts becoming quite advanced. It’s safe to assume that if you’re a smoker and have difficulty breathing, you’re experiencing changes to your airways that aren’t in your best interest. You are advised to get evaluated. You are best advised to remove yourself from the source of the inflammation (in other words, stop smoking).
How does COPD affect my life?
For starters, it shortens it. It also markedly increases your cancer risk. At some point all the damage and changes to your lungs is going to cause some abnormality. Given this is the area you use to breath, deliver oxygen to your organs and eliminate toxins from your body, all manners of things can go wrong, and they often do. COPD is a chronic, progressive disease. You may or may not pick up on the slow creep of diminishing ability to perform routine activities, or maybe you’ll just attribute them to aging (COPD occurs most often in middle-aged to elderly individuals). Once severe enough, COPD may prevent you from doing even basic activities like walking, breathing without difficulty, or taking care of yourself.
What’s the cure for this?
Here’s the frightening part: we’re talking about irreversible lung tissue change and destruction. Once layers of your airways have been ripped out (figuratively), they aren’t coming back. The damage is done. Prevention is your best defense.

 COPD treatment-chart

So how is it treated?
There is no real treatment without removing the trigger feeding the ongoing inflammation. In other words, you’ll have to stop smoking to attempt to arrest the progression. Additional measures involve support.

  • Supplemental oxygen may be needed to deliver enough oxygen to the tissues as an effort to combat the destruction and inflammation of tissue meant to facilitate oxygen exchange.
  • Medicines to reduce the inflammation and mucus may be prescribed.
  • Medicines to better open the airways past the clogging caused by inflammation and mucus may be prescribed.

Your physician will discuss these and other options. The truth is COPD has no cure. Once you’re discovered to have COPD, efforts switch to slowing the progression and implementing measures to improve the quality of your life within the parameters defined by the advancement of your disease.
Here is a short video from the National Institutes of Health.

Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what 844-SMA-TALK and http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress. We are also on Facebook at SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

Straight, No Chaser: Tips to Limit Your Risk of Contracting The Most Deadly Diseases

early-death-pair

It is interesting and, even more, curious to hear everyone obsess over how esoteric and rare conditions can potentially kill you. Word to the wise: Common things happen commonly.  I’m going to make this a very simple post (with links to previous Straight, No Chaser posts covering the individual topics in greater detail). Let’s help you extend your life expectancy by offering very simple tips (three to five for each) to prevent and combat the five most common causes of death. This list is by no means comprehensive, but if you follow the achievable steps mentioned, you’ll be much better off than if you don’t.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are the five most common causes of death in the United States for the year ending 2010. (It takes awhile to compile data, but these are basically the leading causes year after year.) I’ve also included the number of annual deaths per condition.

  • Heart disease (e.g., heart attack): 597,689
  • Cancer (all cases): 574,743
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases (e.g., asthma, COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis): 138,080
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859

 agingheart

Heart disease – Click here to learn early recognition of heart attacks.

  • Stop smoking and exposing yourself to second-hand smoke.
  • Exercise daily. Walk at least two miles each day. It’s a final common denomination of other problems and is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. You want your LDL (“bad cholesterol” levels) low and your HDL (“good cholesterol” levels) high. If your LDL and/or overall levels are high, it’s an immediate prompt to reduce your belly, change your diet and exercise more.
  • Limit your calories. Never supersize anything. Eat only until you’re full. Learn about healthy plate sizes.

cancer

Cancer – Cancer warrants a special comment to get screened! Early detection is the key to survival!

  • Don’t use tobacco in any form.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and less red meat.
  • Become physically active: strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at least five days a week.
  • Limit sun exposure and avoid tanning. (Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers.)
  • Limit alcohol intake to one to two drinks/day (women and men, respectively).

asthmarisk

Chronic lower respiratory diseases

  • Stop smoking and exposing yourself to second-hand smoke.
  • Get your home tested for radon.
  • Follow workplace guidelines for workplace exposures to particles known to cause cancer.

strokerecog
Stroke – Learn early detection.

  • Control your blood pressure. This is the most important risk factor in stroke prevention. High blood pressure increases your risk for a stroke four-fold.
  • Control your blood sugar levels. Diabetics have a 1.5 times higher risk of stroke.
  • Control your cholesterol.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk for a stroke between 1.5-2.5 times above the risk of non-smokers.
  • Control your weight through diet and exercise, which is bundled in each of the first three considerations.

mvc

Accidents

  • Learn CPR.
  • Wear safety belts (shoulder and lap) every trip. Seat belts reduce auto crashes by approximately 50%.
  • Stop all distracted driving (drinking, cell phone use, eating, etc.).
  • If you’re going to swim, and even if you know how to swim, take a formal lesson that focuses on life-saving maneuvers.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

There is no fountain of youth. Your cure won’t be found in a bottle, a fad or any other quick fix. It really is about diet, exercise and risk management. The choices you make matter. Remember, although these tips were focused on prevention, early detection and treatment at the time of crisis give you the best chance to survive. Learn early detection of heart attacks and strokes, learn CPR, get screened for cancer and learn how to survive car crashes. It’s not that hard.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what  http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
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Straight, No Chaser: The Challenges and Frustration of Acute Bronchitis

bronchitis bronchitis-treatment-mammqctr
Imagine what it looks like when someone gets hit in the jaw. There’s the redness, swelling from excess fluid in the area, warmth and pain. Those are the components of inflammation. Now imagine those symptoms in your lungs as you’re trying to breath and deliver oxygen to the rest of your body. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a more frustrating diagnosis than bronchitis for both patients and physicians alike. I’ll get into the reasons for that soon enough, but a bit of explanation is definitely in order.
Bronchitis is inflammation of a portion of the airways (the bronchi). Far and away, bronchitis is seen in smokers and after a viral, upper airway infection (e.g., a cold, the flu). In that last statement I slipped in two words that create the frustration regarding this condition: viral and smokers. There’s still more to come on what that means for you.
Everyone reading this has suffered from bronchitis at some point, and, based on what’s already been said, it’s easy to figure out what the symptoms would be. The inflammation of your airways leads to a cough, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, a mild fever and fatigue. If you have asthma, you’re likely to start wheezing. Another major source of frustration is even after the bronchitis has gone away or been treated, the cough stays around for up to an additional four weeks. This gives many the impression that they’re still sick, and leads them to demand that the doctor do something to “fix it.”
There are a few more problems dealing with or treating acute bronchitis.

  • Bronchitis is actually the most common cause of coughing up blood. Coughing up blood or producing blood-tinged mucus tends to make people anxious, and they often start thinking of things like cancer. That train of thought makes some people want to take every test possible to rule out cancer, “just to be sure.” Now your physician knows better and isn’t going to do that unless you have additional symptoms or tell a story more consistent with cancer. That often leads to a lot of frustration and sometimes anger.
  • Bronchitis is most often caused by smokers who don’t stop smoking even while they’re suffering. It is a very tense conversation (from both sides) when you return to the ER five days after being seen and diagnosed with bronchitis, and you’re complaining because you’re not better. Folks, even if your physician puts out the fire, if you continue to relight the match, it’ll continue to blaze.
  • Bronchitis is not pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs. In most cases where bronchitis has an infectious cause, that cause is a virus. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics. You physician understands that you’re sick. Just because you’re sick and coughing, that doesn’t mean you need antibiotics or that antibiotics will cure you. Inappropriate antibiotic use is not without long-term complications that you should want to avoid. (Click here for a discussion on inappropriate antibiotic use.) In most cases, assuming you remove the source of inflammation (e.g., cigarette or cigar smoke, dust, allergens), your symptoms will improve on their own within a week, and all you need is supportive therapy such as cough, fever and pain medicines along with fluids and rest. You must also practice good hygiene to avoid spreading any viruses that may be causing the bronchitis.
  • What complicates this is when your weakened state and continued exposure to whatever is causing the inflammation allows a bacterial infection to land on top of your bronchitis. Ask your physician if it’s possible that this is what is going on. S/he will know how to proceed, including potentially using antibiotics.
  • In a majority of cases, a diagnosis of bronchitis will be a big source of frustration for patients because, from the physician’s standpoint, bronchitis is an easily diagnosed condition due to an obvious cause (such as a cold or cigarette smoking). As such, your physician is likely not to order a lot—or any—tests. Now from the patient’s standpoint, don’t you just hate going to the physician’s office or ER when you’re sick and “nothing” gets done? Well, especially in an ER setting, tests are not used to make diagnoses. They’re meant to be ordered if the results will change the management of the condition or might lead to a change in what is done with you (e.g., admit you to the hospital). Most often, that’s just not going to be the case with bronchitis. Now if after 3–5 days symptoms haven’t improved, you’ve stopped smoking and the mucus you’re coughing up looks a certain way, there’s plenty that will be done differently in most cases.

Please don’t take any of this to mean that you shouldn’t be seen for bronchitis. My effort today is to temper your expectations and help you appreciate what your physician is looking for and thinking. Here are some specific signs and symptoms to look for when you’re suffering from acute bronchitis that indicates a level of seriousness warranting prompt attention:

  • You have a documented high fever or have had a documented fever for more than three days.
  • You have greenish or bloody mucus, or you are coughing up only blood.
  • You have shaking chills.
  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You have heart or lung disease (such as asthma or COPD/emphysema).

Over time, bronchitis can become chronic if the source of the inflammation isn’t removed. If you find yourself with ongoing symptoms for over three months, you will fall into a different category known as chronic bronchitis. Your physician will need to address additional considerations for you.
So often patients with bronchitis are looking for a “quick fix.” As is often the case, that fix is to be found in prevention. In this case, good hygiene and avoidance of smoke and other lung irritants can save you a lot of the shortness of breath and chest pain associated with bronchitis (pun intended).
Feel free to contact your SMA expert consultant if you have any questions on this topic.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress. We are also on Facebook at SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

Copyright © 2013 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress
 

Straight, No Chaser: Life Begins (To End) at 40 (Unless It Doesn’t) – The Cardiopulmonary (Heart and Lung) System

agingheartaginglungs

The fourth part of this series looks at your heart and lungs.  One thing the heart and lung share in common is, left to their own devices, they could function normally for much longer than typically ends up occurring. It’s important to discuss because heart disease is the most common cause of death in people 65 and over, and it is also the most frequent cause of activity limitations. Let’s quickly review changes, challenges and solutions.

Heart Changes: Coronary artery disease increases as your activity declines. Blockages accumulate on the inside of your arteries, and they harden as they lose their elasticity. Both of these factors resulting in lessened blood flow. High blood pressure increases with age, independently and as a result of this.
Lung Changes: The air sacs, airways, and tissues lose elasticity and become more rigid with age. In general however, serious disease notwithstanding, the respiratory system can serve one well throughout a very long life. However, if you’re a smoker or have lung disease (e.g. asthma, COPD), the reversible damage to the lungs starts becoming irreversible about age 35. At that time, you in effect begin tearing out useful lung tissue, which diminishes your respiratory capacity and sets you up for chronic bronchitis and cancer, as the body attempts to repair this damage and does so incorrectly.
Challenges: In the absence of structural disease or continuing to expose yourself to toxins (e.g. cigarettes), the effects of these changes on our health status need not be severe. The social implications of the effects of normal changes due to aging often would not hamper reasonable normal functioning. The real challenge is to avoid inhaling toxins that will harm you (duh, right?).
Solutions: This is much simpler than you’d think and mostly involves prevention. The biological changes can be greatly diminished and held off by a regular, strenuous exercise regimen that causes deep breathing and elevation of your heart rate over a period of time and by avoidance of toxins, especially cigarette smoke and fatty foods. Your heart and lungs are well situated for the long haul in the absence of bad genes and bad habits.
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