Pneumonia is lethal — in more ways than one

While we’re still on the subject of winter coughs, I’d like to take a moment to talk about one of the more serious risks involved with respiratory infections. In fact, it can be lethal.

Pneumonia is an infection that affects the tiny air sacs of your lungs — most people know that much. But what you may not know is that this infection is also a risk factor for a major heart event — such as a heart attack or stroke — in the 90 days following diagnosis.

There’s more to this story, however. Because researchers at Salt Lake City’s Intermountain Heart Institute recently discovered that one form of pneumonia is particularly dangerous…

A 60 percent increased risk for heart event

This recent study looked at close to 5,000 patients, all hospitalized and diagnosed with pneumonia between January 2007 and May 2014. Researchers followed them for 90 days to assess for risk of heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, and death.

Of these patients, roughly 80 percent had bacterial pneumonia — characterized by infection with bacterial pathogens, most commonly Streptococcus. (Just over 20 percent had viral pneumonia, which as the term suggests, is caused by viruses like the flu — though bacterial infection can follow as a complication of an initial viral infection.)

Just over 25 percent of the patients suffered a major adverse cardiac event within the typical 90-day window following a pneumonia diagnosis. But as it turns out, patients with bacterial pneumonia faced a 60 percent higher risk of this fate than patients with viral forms of the illness.

The likely reason? Bacterial pneumonia simply triggers greater inflammation of the arteries. And like I’m always reminding you, this is the true cause of heart attack and stroke… when arterial plaque becomes unstable, and eventually, breaks loose, causing a lethal blockage.

Why older patients need extra protection

Obviously, timely treatment of bacterial pneumonia infections is key here. And this is one case where antibiotics are completely appropriate. (Provided your doctor isn’t just phoning it in, of course.)

But it also means that people with heart disease need to be especially vigilant about preventing bacterial pneumonia — which, this time of year, means avoiding viral infections like the flu.

Yesterday, I shared my simple three-step strategy for winter wellness. And for most healthy people, that’s enough to sail you through flu season unscathed. But if you’re older and already struggling with chronic illness, you’ll want more comprehensive immune support.

Why? Because as I’ve explained here before, immunosenescence — or as I call it, immunity rot — is a real phenomenon of aging. And it doesn’t just make you more vulnerable to colds, flu, and pneumonia. It raises your risk of deadly diseases like cancer, too.

I first covered this subject in detail back in the June 2014 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“The terrifying diagnosis you’ve never heard of”). It’s a must-read for anyone over the age of 50 — especially considering you have months to go before flu season comes to an end.

So if you haven’t yet, consider subscribing today.