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The Respiratory System: Age-Related Changes & COPD

The respiratory system, like many of the other human systems (e.g., cardiovascular, digestive), is a wondrously complex and sophisticated arrangement of organs working together to maintain homeostasis.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, more commonly referred to as COPD, is a health problem facing adults in the U.S. Because of its progressive nature and increased age as a leading factor, there is a greater prevalence of COPD in seniors. The good news is that many adults can easily reduce their risk of COPD through lifestyle management.  

COPD represents a group of lung diseases, with the two most common being emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Symptoms of COPD include

  • Constant coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up mucus
  • Tightness in the chest

Research also suggests that there may be a link between poor air quality and COPD. The American Lung Association estimates that between 80-90% of COPD cases result from smoking. Unsurprisingly, secondhand smoke is a significant risk factor as well. 

Seniors should take the following steps to reduce their risk of COPD:

  • Older adults that smoke should get support from a primary care physician and take steps to quit. There are many programs, services, and products that can help.
  • Seniors should avoid contact with secondhand smoke whenever possible.
  • Reducing exposure to air pollution can help relieve symptoms. Many cities issue poor air quality warnings – when these warnings are in effect, seniors should limit outside activities. 
  • Seniors should avoid airborne irritants (chemicals, fumes, etc.) in the home.
  • A healthy diet and exercise plan can improve lung function and overall health with direction from a physician.
  • Older adults should understand the impact of aging on their respiratory system and reduce their risk of any related diseases, illnesses, or conditions.
  • Doctors may recommend getting vaccinations for both influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia to guard against further breathing complications.

Comfort Keepers® Can Help

Comfort Keepers elevates the human spirit for today’s seniors and their families through a unique, individualized approach to care that helps seniors thrive and achieve greater wellbeing by fostering everyday positive moments, connection, and a more purposeful life no matter their age or acuity. As part of a healthcare team, an in-home caregiver can assist with activities that slow disease progression or reduce the risk for those with respiratory issues. Comfort Keepers caregivers can help by supporting physician-recommended health programs, preparing meals, encouraging prescribed physical activity, reminding seniors to take medications, and providing transportation to scheduled appointments. 

Healthline. “Everything You Need to Know About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).” Web. 2018.
Everyday Health. “5 Best Ways to Prevent COPD” by Chris Iliades, MD. Web. 2018.
Aging Care. “An Overview of COPD” by National Institutes of Health. Web. 2017.
Unity Point Health. “The Top 8 Respiratory Illnesses and Diseases.” Web. 2014.
American Lung Association. “Lung Capacity and Aging.” Web. 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Chronic Respiratory Disease.” Web. 2017.

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We understand choosing an in-home care provider can be a difficult decision, and we want to make your journey as easy as possible. We're here to support you by providing helpful senior care tips and information on in-home care and senior health and wellbeing topics.

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