Pneumonia hospitalizations: Viral infections more common than bacterial, elderly face higher stroke and heart attack risk

Pneumonia hospitalizations

Pneumonia is a leading cause of hospitalization and death among adults in the United States. When people think of pneumonia, they often associate it with bacteria, but it turns out that viruses are more often to blame. Unfortunately, neither viruses nor bacteria are detected in the majority of hospital patients, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The study, published in the  New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted over a 2.5-year period and involved data from 2,488 patients from three different American hospitals. An overwhelming 93 percent had confirmed cases of pneumonia. The investigation used chest radiographs and detailed diagnostic methods to determine the cause for the hospitalizations among adults from January 2010 through June 2012. Study participants provided specimens that were tested for both viral and bacterial pathogens.

January 2010 through June 2012. Study participants provided specimens that were tested for both viral and bacterial pathogens.

The results showed that 27 percent of the patients had viruses, while bacteria was the issue in 14 percent of the patients.

While the research team reported that pneumonia cost the United States more than 10 billion dollars in 2011, they also said that most of the time doctors are unable to say why people have pneumonia.
They insist there is a need for quicker, more sensitive tests to pinpoint the causes of the pneumonia. If this were to happen, better treatment could be applied.

Related Reading: Is Pneumonia Contagious?

Pneumonia in seniors increases the risk of a heart attack and stroke

Older people often have additional health problems. In some cases, they may not even realize that they have underlying health issues, but adding any sort of illness, including pneumonia, can lead to dangerous complications. Another factor to consider is that younger adults tend to visit the doctor as soon as symptoms such as chills or shortness of breath occur, but the elderly are less likely to notice symptoms or seek help until it is too late. Doctors report that this is often the case with pneumonia in seniors.

In many cases pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics, but a medication as common as this can be hard for our liver and kidneys to handle as we age. To add to the problem, many seniors are on other medications, so once they get pneumonia it is difficult for doctors to find other remedies that they can safely add to fight the condition.

When people get pneumonia, pus can form in air sacs within the lungs. It can then spread into the bloodstream. In the case of seniors, this can be deadly since the pus can make its way into other organs or into an implanted medical device, such as a valve or pacemaker.

Recent studies show that older people who suffer from pneumonia and require hospitalization put themselves at a higher risk for future heart attacks, stroke, or heart failure. One study tracked 6,000 adults aged 65 and older, while another study examined 16,000 adults aged 45 to 65. There were 591 and 680 pneumonia cases respectively in the two studies. The research team compared heart disease events among those hospitalized with pneumonia with people who had not experienced pneumonia. The team admits at this point they have no idea why pneumonia would cause a higher risk of heart-related problems.

Tips to prevent pneumonia

Nutrition: There are ways of preventing pneumonia. Good nutrition is one way. When we consume a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, we are getting the vitamins and minerals necessary to help boost our immune system. A weak immune system makes us more prone to pneumonia, as well as the common cold.

According to researchers at Winthrop University Hospital in Long Island, nutritional supplements not only help prevent illnesses like the common cold and pneumonia in the elderly, but also can assist seniors when they actually become ill. In one study, the addition of 0.5L of nutritional supplement per day resulted in better functioning for elderly pneumonia patients after three months.

Good hygiene: Another way of preventing pneumonia is through good hygiene, including washing hands properly and regularly, as well as disinfecting surfaces we frequently touch.

Flu shots: Influenza or flu is one of the common causes of pneumonia. Flu shots are available through doctors and special community clinics. Some studies show that vaccination programs can reduce hospitalization among high-risk seniors by 30 to 50 percent and death by 39 to 54 percent.

Home remedies to treat pneumonia

Those who do get pneumonia may or may not require hospitalization. Some people with respiratory illness are able to recover at home with guidance from their doctor. In most cases, the following instructions are given for home care:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink lots of fluids to avoid getting dehydrated.
  • Cough, unless it is making it hard to breath. Coughing is a good way to get rid of the infection.
  • If you have a fever, seek medical advice on how to get it under control.

If someone is being treated at home and suddenly experiences pain in the abdomen or chest, it’s time to seek medical attention. While millions of Americans get pneumonia each year and most respond well to treatment, it’s an illness that needs to be taken seriously to avoid complications.

Related Reading:

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Pneumonia can increase risk of heart attack, stroke, or death from heart disease for years

Pneumonia can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and even death due to heart disease for numerous years. The study which examined the association found within the first month of pneumonia diagnosis, the risk of cardiovascular events increases four-fold. After the first month, the risk remains at 1.5 higher, compared to those who never had pneumonia, and the risk can last for years. Continue reading…