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Cystic fibrosis patients breathing easier with surfing

Dalia Ibrahim
Digital Reporter

Sunday, August 17, 2014, 3:32 PM -

A growing number of people with cystic fibrosis are taking advantage of the health benefits that come with surfing. 

Since researchers realized that the salt water in the ocean helps clear out the thick mucus that builds up in patients' lungs, surfing organizations around the world have started providing lessons for those with the disease free of charge. 

The average lifespan for someone with cystic fibrosis is about 40, but many patients don't make it past their teens. The genetic condition, which must be inherited from both parents, affects 70,000 people worldwide. 

There is no known cure, but about a decade ago, doctors in Australia noticed that patients who surfed seemed to breathe easier. Subsequent studies resulted in new saline treatments for patients in 2006 based on the salt water discovery.

"[Patients] saw a big difference in a lot of things: in pulmonary function, in need for hospitalization, in how well they felt,'' said Dr. Bruce Nickerson, a pulmonary specialist at the Children's Hospital of Orange County in an interview with The Associated Press. 

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Along with improving lung function, researchers say the saltwater therapy breakthrough may also lead to better drugs to treat the disease. 

The discovery also led to the development of organizations like the Mauli Ola Foundation, which means "breath of life'' in Hawaiian. The organization pairs patients with professional surfers, including Kelly Slater and Sunny Garcia.

With files from The Associated Press

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