August 2008 Mayo Clinic Health Letter Highlights Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Artery Disease, Triglycerides and Heart Disease Risk, and Hunched Back

Thursday, August 7, 2008 General News
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ROCHESTER, Minn., Aug. 6 Here are highlights from the August issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter. You may cite this publication as often as you wish. Reprinting is allowed for a fee. Mayo Clinic Health Letter attribution is required. Include the following subscription information as your editorial policies permit: Visit or call toll-free for subscription information, 800-333-9037, extension 9771.

For Easier Breathing

Ways to slow progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary artery disease

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- A chronic cough or change in breathing shouldn't be dismissed as smoker's cough or a sign of being out of shape.

These can be early symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary artery disease (COPD). The August issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter discusses COPD, a progressive lung disease usually caused by smoking.

COPD is most commonly a combination of chronic bronchitis -- characterized by persistent cough and phlegm production -- and emphysema, which causes shortness of breath. These conditions develop gradually and produce few signs and symptoms in the early stages. But COPD, among older adults, is a leading cause of death in the United States.

Fortunately, when COPD is detected at a mild-to-moderate stage -- as the majority of cases are -- symptoms can remain mild if a person stops smoking and adopts a healthier lifestyle.

Strategies that can help mild-to-moderate COPD include:

-- Avoid respiratory infections -- Get the pneumonia vaccine and an annual flu vaccination and take basic preventive precautions such as frequent hand washing.

-- Get daily exercise -- The efficiency of the muscles and circulatory system will increase.

-- Use short-acting bronchodilators -- They can help relax muscles and prevent spasms and, as a result, relieve coughing and make breathing easier.

-- Avoid irritants -- Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke, air pollution, wood smoke, strong odors and dust.

-- Maintain a well-balanced diet and healthy weight -- Too thin can lead to frailness, while being overweight can increase shortness of breath.

Treatments for more severe COPD include long-acting bronchodilators, corticosteroids and supplemental oxygen.

Triglycerides Count in Managing Heart Disease Risk

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Cholesterol, both good and bad, gets plenty of attention when the subject is reducing the risk of heart disease. Yet triglycerides, a form of fat that circulates in the blood, merit similar attention, according to the August issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

Some studies suggest that the increase in heart disease risk from elevated triglycerides may rival that of high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol. Another concern is that high triglyceride levels increase the risk of pancreatitis, a painful, life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas.

The National Cholesterol Education program recommends triglyceride levels below 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/DL). Mayo Clinic cardiologists recommend triglyceride levels below 100 mg/DL.

For most people, elevated triglycerides are caused by three related factors: consuming too many calories, inadequate exercise, and being overweight or obese. As food is consumed, the digestive system makes triglycerides, an important source of energy. Once immediate energy needs have been met, extra triglycerides can be stored in the body's fat cells for use later.

Other factors can increase triglyceride levels. They include health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney or liver disease; medications including thiamine diuretics, beta-blockers or hormone therapies; and alcohol. For some people, alcohol alone dramatic

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