Diet And Lifestyle Considerations
Many cases of community-acquired pneumonia begin with a simple cold or a flu (van der Sluijs 2010; Lee 2010; NLM 2016a). Thus, one of the most important ways to avoid pneumonia is to maintain good overall health and keep the immune system functioning normally (Musher 2012; Craig 2009; NLM 2016b; ALA 2016). For more information on ways to avoid the cold and flu, see Life Extension’s Common Cold and Influenza protocols.
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Smoking is the most important risk factor for community-acquired pneumonia that is under an individual’s control. Also, excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of community-acquired pneumonia (Almirall 2015).
- Healthy diet. Nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition are common in older people and contribute to pneumonia risk (Ahmed 2010; Evans 2005; Gaillat 2003), but may be preventable through a well-rounded nutrient-dense diet and dietary supplementation (Stechmiller 2003; Park 2008; Guyonnet 2015).
- Exercise. Substantial evidence indicates engaging in regular physical activity diminishes some of the negative effects of aging on immune cell activity (Senchina 2007) and physically active seniors have fewer infections than their sedentary counterparts (Simpson 2010). Exercise is thought to exert these benefits by activating immune cells, helping expel bacteria from the airways, and reducing stress (NLM 2014).
- Basic hygiene. Regular hand washing is recommended as a strategy for avoiding respiratory infections (UMMC 2012). Regular water or saline nasal irrigation may also help keep respiratory infections at bay (AFP 2009).
Once pneumonia has set in, adequate water intake is especially important for keeping the mucus in the lungs loose. In addition, getting plenty of rest until symptoms are completely resolved may help prevent recurrence (Mayo Clinic 2015).
Poor Oral Health Increases Pneumonia Risk
Because harmful bacteria in the mouth can be aspirated into the lungs and cause infection (Barnes 2014), poor oral hygiene is associated with a higher risk of pneumonia (Torres, Peetermans 2013; Raghavendran 2007; El Attar 2010).
One study that assessed the rate of respiratory illness among a group of older adults demonstrated the importance of thorough oral hygiene. During a six-month period, only 1 of 98 aging adults who utilized dental hygienists for oral health care developed respiratory infections, compared with 9 of 92 people who did not receive the same preventative dental care (Adachi 2007).
In addition, a daily water gargling habit has been found to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, perhaps by keeping infectious microbes from sticking to the oral surfaces (Satomura 2005). Gargling with salt water may also prevent respiratory tract infections, which often precede pneumonia (Emamian 2013).
Several strategies for maintaining good oral health are described in Life Extension’s Oral Health protocol.