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Research finds higher death rate, increased allergies and decreased lung function

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (May 1, 2012) As more of the 78 million boomers enter their 60 s, mortality rates and other health issues increase, especially for those with asthma. According to a study published in the May issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI),the death rate attributed to asthma for those aged 65-years and older is an astonishing 14 times higher than in younger patients.

Yet the research shows the disease is often misdiagnosed and under treated, with only 53 percent of asthmatic boomers using prescribed inhalers. Other health risks, including increased allergy sensitivity, decreased lung function and significantly poorer quality of life, were found in this sample population of asthmatic baby boomers.

Asthma is a complex disease that, when left untreated, can be life-threatening, said allergist Andrew Smith MD, lead study author and ACAAI member. It is alarming that such a large percentage of older people with asthma are letting their disease go untreated, especially since this can lead to other health problems.

Researchers analyzed 77 patients over 60-years-old, both with and without asthma. A complete medical history, physical examination, skin prick and breathing tests and exhaled nitric oxide measurements were performed. Quality of life was measured through a patient questionnaire.

Results showed 89 percent of patients with asthma also had allergies to mold, animals and/or dust mites. Poor general health, increased body pain and worse overall physical health were also reported in asthma sufferers compared to those without the disease. Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, arthritis and diabetes were found to be significantly more common.

Those with asthma reported more infections, physician visits and more impact on health, yet only half are regularly treating the disease, said Dr. Smith. Patients should regularly carry and take prescribed asthma medications, following dosage instructions.Research shows that appropriate recognition of the disease, use of asthma medications and treatment by allergistsimproves outcomes, including reduction of hospital visits and improvement of quality of life.

According to ACAAI, the estimated economic cost of asthma is $20.7 billion annually. For patients with asthma symptoms, misdiagnosis and mismanagement may lead to under-treatment which can be fatal.Improved outcomes with care and treatment from an allergist include:

  • 54 percent to 76 percent reduction in emergency room visits
  • 60 percent to 89 percent reduction in hospitalizations
  • 77 percent reduction in lost time from work or school

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