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ravi patel VMGAbeeJTKo unsplash scaled

Asthma is usually considered a child’s disease, yet the risk of asthma-related mortality is actually higher among people aged over 55. The reasons why asthma can hit seniors particularly hard is manifold and includes lung changes as we age, mistaken perceptions of labored breathing and what it means, difficulties with diagnosing asthma, and the effects that other existing illnesses can have on respiratory health. What are the signs of late-onset asthma and how can you reduce the impact of this condition if you have it?

Asthma Symptoms In The Elderly

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) reports that although asthma development is uncommon in one’s 70s and 80s, when it does occur, symptoms are similar to those of children. These include wheezing, chest tightness, a chronic cough, and having difficulty breathing after exercise. According to the AAFA, “Asthma symptoms among older adults are more likely to take the form of coughing with the production of sputum (the fluid coughed out) from the lungs.” However, doctor sometimes chalk these symptoms down to bronchitis and heart disease. It can be difficult to diagnose the exact cause of symptoms, especially if a person has a disease like emphysema or heart disease.

The Importance Of An Action Plan

A case control study by M Abramson et al on older asthmatics has found that creating an ‘action plan’ is a major protective factor against asthma. Despite their utility, action plans are often not given due importance in patient asthma management. This plan should include the selection of the right medication (one that causes the least side effects possible), using technological means (such as reminders) to ensure the elderly take their medication, and proper cleaning of the home.

Reducing Risk Factors In The Home

Elderly people with asthma should know the biggest risk factors to their respiratory health at home. The Environmental Protection Agency warns that indoor air quality in the U.S. can be two to five times worse in your home than outside. This can harm human health in many ways, posing a risk for asthma, cancer and other diseases. Allergens that can trigger asthma at home include pollen, dander and mold spores. If you have asthma, rely less on harsh chemicals and use a powerful steam vacuum to remove mold. If you live in a humid area, having a technical inspection for toxic mold (also called black mold) is highly useful. If this type of mold is present, a professional clean may be necessary.

Battling Asthma Through Lifestyle Changes

In addition to following your asthma plan and taking the required medication, know that there are specific conditions that can have a negative impact on asthma. These include depression, anxiety, being overweight, and having poor physical fitness. Therefore, to the extent that you can, try tackling each of these issues to improve your health and well-being. Controlled breathing, yoga and Tai Chi can all aid with stress, anxiety and depression. Physical activity (cardiovascular and strength exercise), meanwhile, can help keep you physically fit. Talk to your doctor about an appropriate fitness regimen, and seek professional help if you have anxiety or depression.

Asthma may be more prevalent in the young, but its consequences for the elderly can be stronger. Seniors can have a greater problem being diagnosed with asthma, since they may have concurrent conditions or be taking medications that lead to similar symptoms as those encountered in asthma. Those who have symptoms of asthma should see their doctors, since the formulation of an asthma plan and the adoption of specific lifestyle changes can improve their quality of life and health outcomes.

This article is intended for informational purposes only. If you have any questions or are considering any recommendations, please consult your health practitioner.

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Ravi Patel