With the advancement of COVID-19, a disease that attacks the respiratory system, we thought it apt to highlight respiratory health in seniors. Since COVID-19 is far from the only respiratory disease that affects seniors, here are 5 other prominent diseases to watch out for, and 5 ways to maintain respiratory health in the COVID-19 era.
Asthma is a very common disease in people of any age, but especially adults over the age of 65. It can have some very serious health consequences if improperly treated or left untreated. Asthma causes increased sensitivity to stimuli which results in constriction of the airways.
Causes: Airborne irritants or allergens, respiratory infection or virus
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
Is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the lungs, usually caused by some sort of respiratory trauma, which results in too much fluid in the lungs. When insufficient levels of oxygen enter the lungs, it prevents other organs in the body getting the oxygen they need, which can be serious very quickly as organs begin to suffocate and fail.
Causes: Injury to the chest or lungs, infection in the lungs
- Aging Lungs
Like many things in the body, the lungs naturally deteriorate with age. This can be caused by changes in the shape of our bones, which can tighten the rib cage and constrict the lungs, as well as weakening of the muscles in the respiratory system making it harder to draw in air.
Falls under the umbrella of COPD, and has some of the same causes as Chronic Bronchitis. It occurs when the air sacs in the lungs weaken over time, becoming damaged or stretched. The result is shortness of breath, and chronic cough, difficulty breathing.
Causes: Smoking (most commonly), genetics
- Chronic Bronchitis
Bronchitis is a disease that affects people of any age, but seniors are at higher risk for it becoming chronic, lasting for months rather than days or weeks. Bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes, which deliver oxygen to the lungs, become enflamed causing mucus production and blocking airflow. The result is difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Causes: Smoking, dust, fumes, prolonged exposure to air pollution
Some of these ailments are unavoidable aspects of aging, but there are a few simple ways to help mitigate their onset.
- Get Frequent Checkups – Seeing your doctor regularly can help spot a harmful respiratory disease early before it becomes difficult to treat, or life-threatening.
- Exercise – The benefits of exercise are innumerable for many aspects of bodily functions. This is especially true for the lungs. While it may be difficult for seniors to exercise, there are ways seniors can be active. Even going for a walk can do wonders for the body and lungs.
- Stop Smoking – Smoking is comprehensively proven to negatively affect numerous functions in the body. For obvious reasons, the lungs are the organs that smoking harms the most.
- Wear a mask – Research shows that simply wearing a mask outside of your home can significantly decrease your risk of contracting COVID-19.
- Socially distance – Staying 6 feet or more away from other people outside can reduce your risk of inhaling droplets containing SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus).
Note: With the COVID-19 pandemic still spreading in the United States, the CDC and WHO also highly recommend washing your hands frequently, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, avoiding touching your eyes and mouth, and staying home, or away from crowds, as much as possible.
Family Resource is proud to provide services that keep seniors comfortable in their homes as much as possible, like errands and grocery shopping (“Shop & Drop”), to decrease their risk infection from going outside.