Pneumonia is a potentially serious infection of the lungs that can cause cough, trouble breathing, and fever, with possible severe complications such as respiratory failure (Mayo Clinic 2015; Musher 2012; UMMC 2012). In the United States, pneumonia is the sixth leading cause of death in people 65 and older, and causes about one million hospitalizations each year (Musher 2012; Torres 2013; American Thoracic Society 2015).
The immune system weakens with age, a phenomenon known as immune senescence (Murray 2015). This leaves older individuals increasingly vulnerable to the bacteria and viruses that cause most cases of pneumonia (Krone 2014; Mayo Clinic 2015; Musher 2012). People with underlying medical conditions, such as chronic lung disease or heart disease, are also at increased risk (Torres, Peetermans 2013; Mayo Clinic 2015).
Antibiotics are the primary treatment for pneumonia and should be initiated when bacterial pneumonia is deemed probable (Musher 2012; Torres 2013). However, general overuse of antibiotics has driven the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, which can complicate pneumonia treatment (UMMC 2012). Pneumonia caused by drug-resistant bacteria is harder to treat and may lead to longer illness and greater risk of death (Bosso 2011).
Novel antibiotics and strategies to promote judicious antibiotic use, as well as campaigns to encourage broad uptake of pneumococcal vaccines among those 65 and older, are helping keep antibiotic resistance at bay to some degree. Nevertheless, innovative ways to prevent and manage infectious diseases like pneumonia are sorely needed (CDC 2015; Bosso 2011; Pinzone 2014).
Intriguing recent studies suggest an association between cholesterol-lowering statin drugs and reduced risk of pneumonia and pneumonia-related death, and adjunctive corticosteroids have been shown to reduce pneumonia severity (Nassaji 2015; Cheng 2014; Marti 2015; Horita 2015; Siemieniuk 2015). Also, history of aspirin use has been associated with reduced risk of death within 30 days of hospital admission with pneumonia (Falcone 2015).
In addition, several integrative interventions such as reishi mushroom (Lin 2005), pu-erh tea (Zhang 2012), cistanche (Wu 2005; Yamada 2010; Zhang 1988; Zhang 2014), zinc (Barnett 2010), vitamin D (Youssef 2012), and probiotic supplements (Hao 2015) may help fortify the body’s defenses against infections like pneumonia.
In this protocol you will learn about the causes of pneumonia and how this potentially fatal respiratory disease is typically managed. You will read about risk factors that could increase your vulnerability to pneumonia, and what lifestyle and dietary habits can help reduce your risk. Several novel and emerging pneumonia prevention and treatment strategies will be reviewed, and a number of natural interventions that may help mitigate pneumonia risk will be described. Given the significant contribution of immune senescence to pneumonia risk in the elderly, aging individuals should also review the Immune Senescence protocol.