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More smoking-related lung disease than previously thought

Two major new studies are showing that current and former smokers have serious, often unrecognized, lung abnormalities, according to a 2016 column by New York Times health and aging writer Jane Brody. She writes that these researchers project there are 35 million current or former smokers older than 55 in the United States who aren’t being measured or treated for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Spirometry measures how much air a person can inhale and exhale but this simple test is often skipped during routine medical checkups of people with a history of smoking. Worse, the new studies prove the test often fails to detect serious lung abnormalities that cause chronic cough, compromise breathing, energy level, risk of serious infections and quality of life.

Too often, symptoms like shortness of breath and limits on exercise are “dismissed as normal aging,” researchers said. The challenge, they say, is to identify patients with smoking-related lung damage who don’t yet have obstructive disease and treat them with pulmonary rehabilitation to head off encroaching disability.

The researchers encourage former smokers to have their lungs examined periodically, whether they have symptoms or not.

* No Such Thing as a Healthy Smoker, by Jane Brody, New York Times, June 20, 2016.



How “Just a Sprain” Can Impact Your Health

How many times have we heard ‘it’s just a sprain’ and shrugged it off? Every day roughly 28,000 Americans sprain an ankle and 55 percent  never seek medical attention, according to the International Ankle Consortium, a global group of researchers and clinicians who study ankle injuries.

The problem is the majority of ankle sprains are doomed to recur because they often result in a chronically unstable joint that tends to affect balance, distort gait, inhibit exercise, and cause weight gain, and cardiovascular or respiratory conditions. What’s happened in a sprain is that the ligament on the outside of the ankle has been unduly stretched. It can be a minor strain or a complete tear so healing can vary greatly. One study of 12 college students with a sprain showed they still had an incompletely healed, overstretched ligament a year after the injury.

One of the best approaches to preventing sprain is improving balance, increasing flexibility through stretching exercises and if participating in sports, consider taping or bracing the ankle.

If you do suffer a sprain, avoid “walking it off”. Get weight off the ankle and to minimize swelling, apply ice, elevate your ankle above your hip, and wrap it in an elastic bandage. Seriously consider medical attention if pain and swelling persist, and don’t rush back into activity because re-injuring the ankle can result in permanent pain and disability.

PS. The Athens Clarke Council on Aging (ACCA) offers instruction on their Wellness Motion System each Wednesday at 10 a.m. A licensed therapist explains the equipment on ACCA’s Adult Playground, and then leads a series of movements designed to increase balance, coordination, flexibility and stamina.

Tips to measure your blood pressure correctly

How you prepare for a blood pressure test can change a blood pressure reading by 10 percent or more, according to Harvard Medical School’s Healthbeat newsletter. Here’s what you should do to ensure a correct reading:

      • Don’t drink a caffeinated beverage or smoke during the 30 minutes before the test.
      • Sit quietly for five minutes before the test begins.
      • During the measurement, sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and your arm supported so your elbow is at heart level.
      • The inflatable part of the cuff should completely cover at least 80 percent of your upper arm, and the cuff should be placed on bare skin, not over a shirt.
      • Don’t talk during the measurement.
      • Have your blood pressure measured twice, with a brief break in between. If the readings are different by five points or more, have it done a third time.
      • If you sometimes feel lightheaded when standing after sitting or laying down, have your blood pressure checked while seated and then while standing to see if it falls from one position to the next.
      • Have your blood pressure measured in both arms at least once. Readings can vary from arm to arm; the higher number should be used to make treatment decisions.
      • Hypertension diagnosis typically requires at least two readings a few weeks apart unless you have a reading of 180/110 mmHg or higher. This would require prompt treatment.

If a doctor, nurse, or medical assistant isn’t doing it right, according to these national and international guidelines, don’t hesitate to ask them to get with the guidelines.

Harvard Medical School offers special reports on over 60 health topics. Visit for more details.



Participate in a health study

UGA’s Clinical and Translational Unit conducts health studies throughout the year. Current studies that will be using older participants include one looking at Immune Response to Influenza Vaccine, and one on Investigation of epigenetic regulation of body weight and heart disease among individuals with obstructive sleep apnea. For more information, go to You can also sign up for email alerts about new studies.

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