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50 Percent Of People Hospitalized For The Flu Have This Condition

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Did you know that the flu has risk factors just like other common illnesses and diseases? According to recent studies, this year's flu strain is particularly dangerous for obese individuals. Find out more below.

This year’s flu outbreaks have reached an epidemic level in many states throughout the country and in other countries around the world. The flu has lead to complications in many parts of the world for many at-risk groups like the elderly, children, and pregnant women. However, this year's flu has a somewhat unusual at-risk group.

According to medical reports from the Center for Disease Control, about half of the individuals hospitalized for influenza this year have been obese. The last time such a large percentage of young or obese people were hospitalized was during the 2009 pandemic of the H1N1 flu.

Not surprisingly, the most active form of the flu virus this year is the H1N1. But what makes obesity related to a person’s chances of contracting any virus? How does obesity relate to your chances of getting the flu? Find out below.

Obesity and Immunity

For years, researchers have known that obesity is a risk factor for contracting more serious versions of common medical conditions. In scientific studies, it has been shown that obese persons have a reduced immune system. According to research, obesity triggers sluggish body responses to invaders, chronic inflammation, and a reduced number of circulating nutrients.

All of these factors contribute to an obese person’s higher risk of infection. Past studies have proven that during hospital stays, an obese person is more likely to contract a nosocomial infection (pick up some illness while at the hospital). What is even more interesting, however, is what researchers from the University of North Carolina uncovered in a study from 2012. The researchers found that during the 2009 pandemic of the H1N1 virus, obese persons were more likely to have morbidity and mortality following infections with the virus. More obese persons ended up in the hospital or dead than in any other group. The researchers were unable to explain why this happens, but the evidence is clear. Obese persons are more likely to have a higher chance of contracting the flu virus specifically.

Other researchers have speculated that obesity triggers “respiratory restrictions,” which could lead to the development of pneumonia (the number one reason why people with the flu end up in the hospital). Researchers found that if the obese person was healthy, he or she was less likely to have complications, but when obesity was combined with other health problems that commonly affect obese individuals, their likelihood of facing hospitalization and complications from the flu rose dramatically.

Due to these new facts, researchers are now recommending that obese individuals who are presenting flu-like symptoms receive anti-viral medications right away.

The Dangers of the Flu Virus

Although many common viruses are called the flu, the real flu virus typically is stronger and lasts longer than colds or stomach viruses. Most flu viruses can present symptoms for 2 to 4 weeks in some cases. In 2014, about 2,600 people have been hospitalized due to the flu, and about 25 adults and 10 children have died from flu complications. This year, even younger adults have also faced complications from the flu. This is a common side effect of the H1N1 strain of the flu, which is the most active this year.

Individuals at the highest risk for facing complications from the virus are children under age 6, the elderly, and pregnant women. According to reports from the CDC, about 30 percent of the individuals hospitalized for the flu so far this season have been pregnant women. Since the flu can result in serious complications at any age, it is important to take steps to prevent the spread of the illness in your immediate circle of influence. Find out how below:

Prevent Flu Outbreaks

Of course, the best way to prevent the flu is to protect yourself from the virus. The following steps can help you maintain a healthy body so you can avoid the flu and any resulting complications.

Should You Vaccinate?

The CDC and other health groups advocate getting a yearly flu shot. However, the flu vaccine can have side effects that are unpleasant at best, and possibly dangerous at their worst. Every person must make their own decisions on whether to vaccinate against the flu, but here are some statistics about the flu vaccine you might not know:

Flu Vaccine Facts 
In the 2012-2013 flu season, the vaccine did nothing to protect the elderly against the illness. Just as many people were hospitalized with the vaccine as without it. 
The effectiveness rate of the 2012-2013 vaccine was about 50-60 percent at its best. The vaccine is only this effective when the virus strains are a good match for the current year’s viruses. 
The 2013-2014 vaccine for the flu does not protect against the specific H1N1 virus currently running rampant this season. 
Side effects of the flu virus often cause flu-like symptoms.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Clearly, maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do to avoid the flu altogether or end up with a milder case that will prevent a stay in the hospital. While it is probably impossible to drop 20-30 pounds in just a few weeks, you can take steps to improve your health by eating well, exercising regularly, and avoiding junk foods and sugar that can quickly cause weight gain.

In general, a healthy weight is one key to avoiding many common health problems like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. When your body is at a healthy weight, your immune system improves and you will have a healthier life overall.

Exercise Regularly

Although you wouldn’t think exercising and sweating could really influence your immune system, studies have shown that regular exercise is one of the best ways to improve your overall health. The National Institute of Health offers insight into several ways that exercise can help you fight off the flu and other viruses:

How Exercise Prevents the Flu 
  • Exercise flushes out bacteria from the lungs
  • Exercise moves antibodies and immune system cells through the body faster
  • Exercise increases body temperature, which fights invading pathogens
  • Exercise releases stress. Stress can lower the immune system

According to studies, about 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day is the ideal amount for fighting off viruses like the flu.

Eat A Nutrient-Dense Diet

It’s no surprise that eating nutrients will help you ward against the flu. Obviously giving your body the tools it needs to improve your immune system is a good idea. Additionally, eating a nutrient-rich diet will also help you drop any extra pounds you may have hanging on from days of past indulgence. The pillars of healthy nutrition include:

Whole grains: When you eat grains (which should be no more than about 30 percent of your diet), make sure they are whole grains. Processed grains have too much of their nutrients removed, which basically turns them into sugar once they hit your stomach. The average amount of sugar that we consume is extremely detrimental to our immune systems, so most people can benefit from cutting back significantly on the amount of sugar they consume.

Vegetables and Fruit: Most Americans do not each enough fruits and vegetables. The USDA recommends that adults eat about 6 cups of vegetables and fruit a day. In most cases, you should eat more vegetables than fruit, since modern fruits contain high levels of sugar.

Healthy Meats: Although there is some debate over what kinds of meat are healthy, in general, meats that are not processed, do not have added hormones and antibiotics, and are fed natural foods (such as feeding grass to cows rather than grains or animal products) are healthier than animals raised using conventional methods.

Healthy Fats: Your body does need some amount of fats, but the kind of fat you choose is important. You should avoid processed fats such as hydrogenated oils, and embrace natural fats like coconut oil, butter, and olive oil.

Supplement for Seasonal Support

Since the flu is so rampant and in some states has reached epidemic status, just eating a healthy diet and exercising may not be enough to keep you healthy this year. If you want to ensure you avoid the flu, try adding the following supplements to your daily routine until flu season is over:

Zinc: Taking zinc at the early onset of the cold or flu can shorten the duration of symptoms. Additionally, recent studies have shown that taking zinc for several months at a time reduces your likelihood of contracting a cold or flu virus in the first place.

Echinacea: According to studies, Echinacea is a supplement that can reduce symptoms and the severity of a cold. However, fewer studies have looked at how Echinacea could benefit flu sufferers, but it likely has a similar effect against the flu virus.

Elderberry: Elderberry has been used for hundreds of years to treat cold and flu viruses, and now, science backs the use of this interesting treatment. According to studies, taking elderberry at the onset of flu can reduce symptom severity by about 56 percent.

Vitamin C: You know you should take your vitamin C to help protect your immune system. According to studies, vitamin C reduces the duration and symptoms of cold and flu viruses just like elderberry.

Spirulina: Test-tube studies have shown that when exposed to flu viruses, Spirulina easily kills the virus and prevents the spread of the flu virus. It is likely it has a similar effect on the human body.

Staying Fit and Avoiding the Flu

As recent studies suggest, your best protection against the flu is not the vaccine, but rather health practices that you implement to improve your health overall. Obesity is linked to a high rate of complications with the flu virus. If you want to avoid contracting the flu this year and in years to come, maintain a healthy weight, eat for nutrition, avoid junk food, exercise regularly, and supplement for additional immunity protection during cold and flu season. These steps will help you fight off the flu virus from the inside out.





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