by Vladimire Herard

Taking the one-time protective vaccine as a senior, getting an annual flu shot, keeping a healthy diet and exercise routine and avoiding smoking aids you in maintaining healthy lungs, authorities say.

As a senior, you can avoid respiratory problems such as the effects of the flu and various categories of pneumonia or illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD by taking preventive measures concerning nutrition, physical fitness, vaccination and cigarette use, respiratory therapists from the American Association for Respiratory Care, also known as AARC, say.

To ensure you preserve fully functioning lungs, you must be sure to maintain a well-balanced diet, practice regular exercise, obtain vaccination and find an effective tobacco cessation program.

You may need to consult not only your primary care physician and general medicine physician but also your assigned, specialty respiratory therapist.

A respiratory therapist is a licensed healthcare professional assisting doctors in diagnosis and management of respiratory disease and treatment.

They serve in hospitals, outpatient centers, patients’ homes, physicians’ offices and skilled nursing facilities. You may find that they care for you in your senior long-term care and short-term care facilities.

Weight-Healthy Diet

Finding a diet that meets all of your nutritional needs and promotes healthy weight loss is essential to maintaining lung health. So does getting physical exercise to strengthen your respiratory system.

Covered Tobacco Cessation

If you smoke, it pays to locate a smoking cessation program that is effective at helping you quit. You can also review your Obamacare private health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid coverage to make sure they will cover this program under their smoking cessation counseling benefit.

Annual Flu Vaccines

Every autumn, you must make an effort to get vaccinated against the flu. Such shots are offered by your local pharmacy or medical clinic or hospital annually.

If you are a senior, they become that much more important as you are statistically most at risk for enduring complications from influenza.

The Impact of Aging on Lungs

The lungs are continuously being exposed to particles in the air, including smoke, pollen, dust, and microorganisms. Some of these inhaled substances can cause lung disease if enough is ingested or if the body is particularly sensitive to them.

Functionality in the lungs diminishes with age. The volume of oxygen entering the air sacs of your lungs get reduced over time. After age 30, the rate of air flow through your lungs decreases. The amount of force you can produce on inspiration and expiration declines.

Seniors with severe breathing issues receive less oxygen in their lungs and are less energetic to carry out daily tasks. As a consequence, they are exhausted, anxious and depressed. This is where assistance from caregivers should come in, especially at a time of disease.

Still, even seniors should have sufficient lung capacity to execute day-to-day tasks with the extra lung function when we are young. This explains why healthy individuals can endure lung surgery and still breathe.

The human brain controls breathing. It receives information from a variety of body parts signalling to it how much oxygen and carbon dioxide occur in the blood. Low oxygen or high carbon dioxide levels leads to a higher rate and depth of breathing.

Typically, even healthy seniors have response limits to decreased oxygen and increased carbon dioxide levels.

The elderly are more at risk for lung infections than the younger adult population. Still, their bodies have means to guard against this. As they age, their immune system may weaken against these infections.

As a result, it is harder for a senior citizen to cough and the cough may not be as effective in clearing the lungs of harmful elements as it would be for a middle-aged or younger adult.

The hairs that line the airways called cilia are not as able to remove mucus as they once were. The nose and breathing passages release less of an antibody that defends against viruses known as IgA.

This means seniors are more vulnerable to pneumonia, influenza, bronchitis and other forms of lung infections.

This is why it is important for the elderly to avoid or cease smoking as it reduces the effect of aging on the lungs and wards off illnesses caused by tobacco such as emphysema or lung cancer. Exercise and physical fitness in general boost breathing, including in seniors.

This can lead to changes in the heart, blood vessels, muscles and skeleton as well as the lungs. In fact, seniors would do well to practice deep breathing during illness or after surgery.

SOURCES:

  1. The American Association for Respiratory Care, AARC, https://www.YourLungHealth.org
  2. CARE, Care.com

3. The National Library of Medicine of National Institutes of Health, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/004011.htm