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CHANGES WITH AGING - RESPIRATORY SYSTEM

 

As we age our respiratory capacity declines, the trachea increases in size, lung elasticity and oxygen exchange decrease and our over breathing capacilty reduces. Poor lifestyle habits such as toxic air and smoking can lead to lung disease, and if exposed to asbestos, mesotheliomas.

 

Respiratory Capacity

From the ages of 20 to 80, our vital capacity declines linearly. The amount of residual air left in our lungs after each breath increases from about 20 percent of the total lung capacity when we are 20 to 35 percent at age 60.

Also, slightly less oxygen is absorbed from air that is breathed in. In people who do not smoke or have a lung disorder, the muscles of breathing and the lungs continue to function well enough to meet the needs of the body during ordinary daily activities. But these changes may make exercising vigorously and breathing at high altitudes more difficult.

The lungs become less able to fight infection, in part because the cells that sweep debris out of the airways are less able to do so. Cough, which also helps clear the lungs, tends to be weaker.

Peak Air Flow Meters & Respiratory Support

 

Changes In The Airways With Age

The trachea (windpipe) and large airways increase in diameter as we age. Enlargement at the lung end of the airways results in a decreased surface area of the lung.

Maximum breathing (vital) capacity may decline by about 40 percent between the ages of 20 and 70.

 

Changes In Lung Elasticity With Age

Decreased lung elasticity and the resulting increase in lung volume and reduced surface area causes the chest to expand and the diaphragm to descend. As our ribs calcify to our breastbone the chest wall stiffens, increasing the workload of the respiratory muscles. Aerobic exercise assists in maintaining elasticity of the lung walls.

 

Changes In The Diaphragm With Age

The muscles used in breathing, such as the diaphragm, tend to weaken. As we become more sedentary, our breathing becomes lazy and we tend not to properly engage our diaphragm. The lungs do not fill to normal capacity and work less efficiently at exchanging oxygen and gasses.

Breathing Exercises

 

Pulmonary Aging

From 20 to age 80 reduces the elasticity of the aveoli by 30%.

 

Blood Oxygen Levels

Decreases, largely as the result of impaired matching of blood flow with the parts of the lung that contain air. Aging does not cause any problems in our ability to get rid of carbon dioxide.

 

Prevention

Endurance training can produce stunning increases in the lung capacity of sedentary older persons, with well-conditioned older people possessing lung function exceeding those of much younger people. Smoking accelerates aging changes.

Quit Smoking Support

Latest News on Smoking and Quit Smoking Support Treatments

NEXT: Changes In Gastro-Intestinal Function With Age


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