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Therapy through song: Choir helps Hungarian lung patients breathe more easily

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, November 19th, 2018

Members of the “Breathing for the Soul” choir, who are patients suffering from lung diseases, sing during their concert in Budapest, Hungary, November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – A Hungarian doctor has prescribed her lung disease patients a new form of physical and spiritual therapy – singing in public as part of a choir.

The “Breathing for the Soul” choir, which was formed this spring, gave its second performance on Thursday in the ball room of a Budapest Hotel.

Its members, many seriously ill with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and drawn from hospitals across Hungary, say the singing has improved the quality of their lives.

“I’ve never thought in my life that I would ever sing,” Maria Aranyi, 74, who has been suffering from serious asthma for a decade.

“After the grey days, there is a place where I feel good … after singing I noticed that I could also breathe more easily.”

Many lung disease patients become inhibited in their daily lives and get increasingly isolated. Singing in a choir has brought them new friends.

Doctor Katalin Vardi came up with the idea of forming the choir after learning that similar patients in other countries had found singing beneficial.

She said introducing concerts had given a new sense of purpose to people who have to cope with the thought that their symptoms could get worse as the disease progresses.

“We upped the stakes for them, in order to change their own image of themselves,” Vardi said.

“With this community … they can show their talent to the world and the fact that they work together for this, is a hugely positive feeling for them.”

The songs were chosen to showcase the patients’ abilities by conductor Gyorgy Philipp, who said the concert was a huge challenge for people who had never been on stage.

“We select songs that make it possible for patients to be able to perform longer lines, more difficult tunes and they can develop through that system,” he said.

Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo and Krisztina Than; editing by John Stonestreet

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Why a walk in the park beats a stroll on the street

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, December 25th, 2017

People walk under cherry blossoms inside a public park on a spring day in Lausanne April 6, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

(Reuters Health) — Older adults who take a daily constitutional may want to avoid traffic-jammed city streets and head to a park instead because polluted air diminishes the benefits of exercise, a UK study suggests.

Researchers in London randomly assigned 119 men and women age 60 or older to take two-hour walks along one of two distinct routes: through a tranquil traffic-free expanse of Hyde Park, or along Oxford Street, the city’s bustling shopping district that’s clogged with diesel-powered buses and cabs.

The study team tested the air for contaminants during each walk, and also assessed participants for lung capacity, or how easily people could breathe, and arterial stiffness, which influences how hard the heart works to pump blood through the body.

After walking in Hyde Park, healthy participants had better lung capacity and decreased arterial stiffness, the study found. But when these people walked along Oxford Street, they experienced only a slight improvement in lung capacity and their arteries got stiffer.

“Just walking at a normal pace for a couple of hours benefits the respiratory and cardiovascular system for up to 24 hours after the walk,” said senior study author Kian Fan Chung of Imperial College London.

“This in itself is a new finding, but the most interesting finding is that being exposed during that time to environmental pollution that one encounters on a busy roadside with a lot of traffic virtually negates these benefits,” Chung said by email.

Exercise has long been linked to better cardiovascular health, and the connection between air pollution exposure and a wide range of health problems including asthma and other breathing issues is also well established.

Black soot and fine particulate matter, as well as contaminants in traffic fumes, can increase the risk of getting a variety of heart and lung diseases and of dying from them.

Air pollution is responsible for around 5.5 million premature deaths worldwide every year, researchers note in The Lancet. In the UK, polluted air contributes to 40,000 deaths each year, nearly a quarter of them in London.

The current study offers fresh evidence that short-term exposure to pollution is associated with stiffening of the arteries and impaired lung function, strengthening the case for reduced vehicle emissions and more green space for exercise in cities, the researchers argue.

All of the participants in the study were non-smokers or had quit at least one year earlier. While 40 of them were healthy, 39 participants had heart disease and 40 had a breathing disorder known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Participants were randomly assigned first to do a walk in Hyde Park or on Oxford Street, then three to eight weeks later they were asked to do the other walk.

The detrimental effects of walking near traffic were most pronounced in people with COPD. These participants reported more symptoms like cough, shortness of breath and breathing after the walk on Oxford Street than in Hyde Park, and they also experienced increased arterial stiffness.

For people with heart disease, however, medication mattered. Among these participants, people only experienced increased stiffening of the arteries on Oxford Street if they weren’t taking medication to control their disease.

Based on air quality tests during each walk, it appeared that the harmful effects of walking on Oxford Street were associated with higher exposure to two byproducts of traffic exhaust: black carbon soot and ultrafine particles in the air known as PM 2.5.

One limitation of the study is that it lacked a control group of people who spent time on Oxford Street or in Hyde Park without exercising, which makes it impossible to prove how much the physical activity contributed to any changes in lung capacity or arterial stiffness, the authors note.

Even so, the study adds to the evidence that the location of exercise matter, said Dr. Dr. George Thurston, author of an accompanying editorial and director of the Program in Human Exposures and Health Effects at New York University School of Medicine.

“Given that the elimination of fossil fuel burning will not happen immediately, the public, and especially people who are most susceptible should avoid exercising near roadways with heavy traffic of diesel vehicles,” Thurston said by email.

SOURCES: bit.ly/2pcgYRR and bit.ly/2kAal6V The Lancet, online December 5, 2017.

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Eating fruits and vegetables may help curb lung disease

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, March 17th, 2017

The fresh fruit and vegetable section is seen at a Walmart Supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

(Reuters Health) —  For current and former smokers, eating more fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a Swedish study suggests.

Among more than 40,000 men, the current smokers who averaged five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily were 40 percent less likely to develop COPD than smokers who ate two servings or less. Each additional serving of fruits and greens was tied to an 8 percent risk reduction.

“All smokers and former smokers should eat as much fruits and vegetables as possible,” said lead author Joanna Kaluza of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

“Each extra serving of fruit and vegetable decreases significantly risk of COPD development,” Kaluza told Reuters Health by email.

COPD is a category of lung diseases that make breathing difficult and can cause wheezing or coughing. The most common types of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and they most often occur in smokers and former smokers.

The antioxidants found in produce might help to protect lungs from smoking damage, the researchers write in the journal Thorax.

The team studied data on 44,335 middle-aged and older Swedish men. None of the men included in the analysis had been diagnosed with COPD at the first assessment.

At the start of the study, the participants completed questionnaires detailing how often they ate different types of foods, including fruits and vegetables, as well as their smoking history. Researchers followed the men from 1998 to 2012 and used a patient registry to determine if they were diagnosed with COPD during the study period.

Almost two thirds of the men were current or former smokers and 1,918 were diagnosed with COPD by 2012.

The research team divided participants into five groups according to how many servings of fruit and vegetables they ate daily. The top fifth ate more than five servings per day, while the bottom fifth ate less than two servings daily.

After separating them again by smoking status, researchers found a significantly lowered risk of COPD tied to high fruit and vegetable consumption among smokers and former smokers, but not among never-smokers.

Ex-smokers with high consumption of greens were 34 percent less likely to develop COPD than ex-smokers with low fruit and vegetable consumption, and each additional serving was tied to a 4 percent drop in COPD risk.

When researchers analyzed the types of produce tied to lower COPD risk, they found an association with apples, pears, leafy greens and peppers but not with berries, citrus, tomatoes or onions.

We rely on antioxidants, such as those found in fruits and vegetables, to defend our lungs against harmful substances in cigarette smoke and air pollution, said Seif Shaheen, a professor of respiratory epidemiology at Queen Mary University in London who coauthored an editorial accompanying the study.

However, Shaheen stressed that diet is not a cure-all for the effects of smoking. “The most important thing you can do to reduce your chances of getting COPD is not to smoke/to stop smoking,” he said by email.

“Eating more fruit and vegetables is likely to be beneficial for your health in many ways, and for smokers who can’t stop smoking this may help to reduce your risk of getting COPD,” added Shaheen, who was not involved in the study.

“High fruit and vegetable consumption not only reduces the risk of chronic lung disease, but also cardiovascular disease, cancers, helps to keep proper body weight and other benefits,” Kaluza noted.

“It is possible for everyone to include more fruits and vegetables in their diet,” she said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/2m8aUa0 and bit.ly/2neb54a Thorax, online February 22, 2017.

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