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Four Major Respiratory & Pulmonary Diseases That Affect Seniors

August 21, 2018 | Blog

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Breathing is something that comes natural to the human body. From infancy to adulthood, it is a critical factor of living. The part of the body that is responsible for breathing is the respiratory system. This system is composed of multiple organs that take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. However, there are numerous chronic conditions that affect the respiratory system of older adults. These issues can be preventable but need additional treatment from a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Therapist to ensure a healthy life.


COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It is often described as chronic airflow limitations of the lungs. The professionals at Mayo Clinic explain the symptoms of COPD to include, “breathing difficulty, cough, mucus (sputum) production and wheezing.” Although 10% of people have some form of mild breathing issues, COPD is frequently found in older adults. According to Healthline, COPD is, “most often caused by smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. However, exposure to other lung irritants over time, such as air pollution and chemical fumes, can also contribute to the development of COPD.”


People with asthma also have airflow limitations due to inflammation of the lungs, which prevents the human body from breathing properly. Asthma is often stimulated by allergens and irritants that cause obstruction of the airways. Many people over the age of 65 have asthma which can cause serious health issues.  According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), “older people with asthma often require higher doses of medication, and even during mild asthma attacks they are more likely to suffer from respiratory failure.” Although there is no cure for asthma, complications caused by it can be treated by an allergist.

Lung Cancer

Although often correlated with cigarette smokers, lung cancer can affect anyone. Those who smoke have a greater chance of getting lung cancer and an increased mortality rate. According to Mayo Clinic, “Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, among both men and women.” Seniors are especially susceptible to lung cancer and are commonly diagnosed between the ages of 65-74. Treatment for seniors often depends on what stage of cancer their in, but could also be influenced by other diseases or illnesses. Some treatment options for lung cancer include chemotherapy as well as diet, lifestyle and exercise changes.


Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a disease that causes the lungs to form interior scar tissue. This acute fibrosing interstitial lung disease decreases the flow of oxygen from the lungs into the bloodstream, which prevents the human body from operating correctly. According to WedMD, “Some people get pulmonary fibrosis when they’re exposed to something in their environment, like pollution, certain medicines, or an infection.”

At Spring Hills Senior Communities, we host educational seminars that teach our seniors about how to prevent and manage diseases they may be prone to. This holistic approach to caring allows them to foster a stronger and more enriched mind, body and spirit.

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