Many seniors deal with respiratory complications that are the third most common cause of death in seniors that are 65 and older. By recognizing the importance of respiratory health and prevention we can help the numbers drop by improving health and reducing respiratory illnesses.
What Are the Most Common Respiratory Illnesses in Seniors
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS):
A severe lung condition. It occurs when fluid fills up the air sacs in your lungs. Too much fluid in your lungs can lower the amount of oxygen or increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. ARDS can prevent your organs from getting the oxygen they need to function, and it can eventually cause organ failure.
ARDS most commonly affects hospitalized people who are very ill. It can also be caused by serious trauma. Symptoms usually occur within a day or two of the original illness or trauma, and they may include extreme shortness of breath and gasping for air.
ARDS is a medical emergency and a potentially life-threatening condition.
As you age, changes affect your lung tissue, muscles and bones, which all impact your breathing. The maximum amount of air your lungs can hold—your total lung capacity—is about six liters. That is about three large soda bottles. Your lungs mature by the time you are about 20-25 years old. After about 35, their function declines as you age and as a result, breathing can slowly become more difficult over time. In a person without lung disease, most of these changes are due to cardiovascular and muscle changes, not changes to the lungs themselves.
There are several body changes that happen as you get older that may cause a decline in lung capacity:
- Alveoli can lose their shape and become baggy.
- The diaphragm can, over time, become weaker, decreasing the ability to inhale and exhale. This change will only be significant when exercising.
- Ribcage bones become thinner and change shape, altering the ribcage so that it is less able to expand and contract with breathing.
- Nerves in airways that trigger coughing become less sensitive to foreign particles. When particles build up in the lungs, they can damage the lung tissue.
- As you age, your immune system may weaken, leaving you more vulnerable to infections like influenza (the flu) and pneumonia.
Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.
Asthma can’t be cured, but its symptoms can be controlled. Because asthma often changes over time, it’s important that you work with your doctor to track your signs and symptoms and adjust treatment as needed.
What Can You Do to Help Your Respiratory Health
There are major things that you can do to improve your respiratory health and reduce the risk of illness, such as:
Increase your lung health by adding in an exercise routine that will help strengthen your lungs. By doing so it will reduce the chances of forming a respiratory illness, Make sure to check with your doctor what exercises are safe to do and form a routine with them.
See The Doctor Often:
By visiting the doctor regularly you can keep up to date on your health and diagnose things before it becomes serious. Be honest with your doctor about how you’re feeling, so they can assess your health accurately. Even if you have mild symptoms speak up so your doctor can see whether it’s a normal part of aging or not.
Even if a senior has been smoking their whole lives they can make an effort to quit now. Smoking is one of the main factors in respiratory illnesses. Quitting smoking can have a major improvement in your respiratory health. Take control of your health by taking these steps to stay healthier and reduce the risk of facing additional illnesses and issues.
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Reno Valley is an assisted living and retirement community that makes living independently, while at the same time feeling safe and secure, a reality. We strive to provide the best quality of life for all residents including those suffering from loneliness and depression.
We offer a comprehensive activity program that includes both physical and social activities to encourage emotional well-being. Our staff is trained to assist those with depression. If you or a loved one are considering assisted living, contact Reno Valley today to learn more about our services or tour our community.