Pneumococcal Pneumonia is a disease every Baby Boomer needs to know about. That’s because people over the age of 65 are 13 times more at risk of being hospitalized for it than those who are 50 and younger. It’s also a major cause of death. I interviewed singer Patti LaBelle who has teamed up with Pfizer to bring awareness to the disease in a campaign called “All About Your Boom™.”
And, yes, I mean THE Patti LaBelle, award-winning singer, known for her songs, “New Attitude, “Lady Marmalade” and “On My Own,” that she sang with Michael McDonald.
We talked briefly with Dr. Vincenza Snow about the disease and why it’s important to do all you can do to prevent it.
Listen to our 2 Boomer Broads podcast episode of this interview with Patti LaBelle
Patti, have you ever been affected yourself from Pneumococcal Pneumonia or is it more a fear of getting the disease?
Patti: Well, it’s a fear of getting it. I’ve never had it, but with Pfizer, my mission is to help the Baby Boomers be more aware and if they encounter Pneumococcal Pneumonia they can see their doctors. Vaccinations, that’s the key. Over 50 sometimes, people don’t think we can get vaccinations. They think it’s just for kids.
Dr. Snow: As Patti was saying they just don’t think they need to get vaccinated as adults and it’s something just for kids. Pneumonia is a potentially serious infection of the lungs and we’re lucky to have vaccines that can help prevent it. Especially over the age of 65, your risk for Pneumococcal Pneumonia is higher even if you’re perfectly healthy you’re still at higher risk than if you are a younger person. And, in fact, you’re more than 13 times more likely to be hospitalized for Pneumococcal Pneumonia when you’re over 65 than when you’re younger than 50.
It’s really important for people over 65 to talk to their doctor or their pharmacist to make sure you’re up to date on all your vaccinations including the pneumococcal vaccination.
I know Patti that you do a lot to stay healthy and I was wondering, what do you do personally to keep your lungs from becoming susceptible to getting pneumonia or bronchitis or any other lung problem, especially as a singer.
Patti: Well, I really can’t answer that question, but as a singer, I pray to God that I never get it because the coughing sound in your voice is totally gone and in the “All About Your Boom™” campaign, I did a video with “New Attitude,” my song, and had singers auditioning for Patti LaBelle background singers and after they finished, we tricked them and played the tape telling them they sounded like “Cough! Cough!
Patti: You have to become aware and if I had that sound in my voice, I don’t know what I would do.
I’ve worked as a voice actor for 35 years too and there are times when you really strain your voice and you don’t want it to get infected.
Patti: Yeah, it’s very important. It’s important for everyone, but especially a singer. I mean, that’s my life.
Yeah, and you really belt out songs, too so you gotta keep it healthy.
Patti: I better. I have no choice.
What do you do if you do get a scratchy throat? What do you use to soothe it?
Patti: Well, when I get scratchy throats, I do have Courvoisier.
I love that!
Patti: Well I used to. I don’t drink it anymore because I didn’t like the taste of it. But I would have that with spirit of peppermint. I would drink and I would inhale certain peppermints and get in the steam forever, and do exercises and hope that it would open. So, those are the things that I do. Dr. Snow has some information that could help you better than what I do.
Dr. Snow: So obviously, prevention is always better than treatment so we always want to prevent anyone from getting pneumococcal pneumonia. Symptoms are a really bad cough, fever, aching, chills, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and weakness. And the cough and fatigue sometimes can last for weeks. So for someone like Patti, who lives off her voice, you don’t want to be out for weeks on end and you don’t want to get hospitalized, either. It’s always better to prevent and the pneumococcal vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease.
Does Pneumococcal Pneumonia just start all by itself, or does it come from another problem that you’re having with your lungs? (like Bronchitis)
Dr. Snow: It can happen in 2 main ways. You can get Pneumococcal Pneumonia and suddenly get sick. It comes on very suddenly. Or, it can start from an upper respiratory or viral illness like really bad bronchitis or, particularly influenza if you get the flu. And after that, you get more susceptible to getting Pneumococcal Pneumonia after having a really bad flu. Once bacteria travels down into your lungs you get pneumonia.
And what if you’re under 65? Can Baby Boomers still get the shot before that or is it just recommended after 65?
Dr. Snow: So, over 65, it’s recommended for everybody. And under 65, it’s recommended if you have certain chronic diseases like diabetes, chronic heart disease, lung disease, renal disease, and liver disease. And also if you have an Immunol suppressive like HIV, cancer therapies. So all those people are indicated as well to get the pneumococcal vaccination.
Patti, what spurred you initially to become part of the campaign?
Patti: Well, I am 73. I’ve had my health scares with diabetes, twenty-one years ago. And I speak to people about diabetes, about cancer. Certain things that I know like I’ve dealt with like family members dying of cancer. So, most things that I’ve been through, I speak on. I’ve never had Pneumococcal Pneumonia but I’m speaking about it because I am a singer. And it would be detrimental to me if I ever encountered Pneumococcal Pneumonia. You know, and I’ll get the vaccinations and everything but you pray you’re going to be okay after that. So, I can’t afford to have it. But I can afford to talk about it because it’s my place. Some people look up to me as a spokesperson because I’m really honest. And I don’t have any time to play with people or lie or anything. And I just know how serious these issues are.
It’s All About Your Boom™ campaign with the “New Attitude” with the song and letting people know how it can really affect you. So, I was totally in when they asked me to be a partner.
That’s wonderful. It’s such a scary thing at this age and you don’t really know what to do. I think people when they do get sick, they don’t get treated right away, either and then it gets worse.
Patti: Yes. I was afraid of doctors before I was diagnosed with diabetes. I stay in the doctor’s offices now, for everything.
I think, sometimes, people are afraid to get the shot.
Dr. Snow: Yes, well, honestly, they should be more afraid of getting the disease than the shot.
Patti: That’s so true!
(Our time ran out)
How to Prevent Pneumococcal Pneumonia
It’s important to eat right, get proper sleep, and exercise to stay healthy. But also, it’s extremely important to stay up to date with your vaccinations. They do make a difference.
Patti: Being involved with “All About Your Boom™” has given me a new attitude about the steps I can take to maintain my health at this age. (73) and I want to encourage others to do the same. I’m committed to helping others live their lives to the fullest ~ it’s our time to enjoy our boom!
Please take Pneumococcal Pneumonia seriously. For more information click here.