The group of organs which work in tandem with each other is referred to as the respiratory system. It takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide as individuals breathe. As individuals inhale, oxygen-rich air is delivered to the lungs via the windpipe through small tubes. The tubes are known as airways or bronchial tubes. These bronchial tubes then separate into even smaller and thinner tubes known as bronchioles.
On the tips of the bronchioles are round, small air sacs known as alveoli. These are then encompassed by tiny blood vessels referred to as capillaries. As air enters into the alveoli, the oxygen is transported through the capillaries then into the bloodstream. Simultaneously the carbon dioxide travels from the capillaries into the alveoli that it could be exhaled.
Effects Of Aging On The Respiratory System
As individuals age the respiratory system ages. The functions of the system slowly deteriorate over time. Just like other muscles in the body, those which support the breathing process become weaker. This weakness has the potential to prevent individuals from taking in and releasing enough air. This can result in shallow breathing in order to compensate, in particular, if the individual is in pain or is sick. As individuals get older, the lungs also become stiffer, resulting in contracting and expanding being more difficult.
This in turn makes breathing even harder. In addition, specific changes occur in the nervous system, which reduces the efficacy of coughing. When individuals are unable to clear mucus from the lungs via coughing, huge quantities of particles could build up in the airways.
The aforementioned age-related changes could result in an enhanced vulnerability to respiratory infections such as the flu or pneumonia. Individuals may also realize a weakened fortitude for working out or a reduced capacity to perform intense exercises, like biking or running. However, even as individuals age, they should be capable of performing normal activities without much difficulty.
In healthy individuals, age-related changes seldom result in symptoms. Notably, age-related changes in the lungs worsen the effects of lung and heart diseases. In particular, the ones resulting from the damaging effects of smoking.
When It Is Not Just Old Age
In the event that individuals are experiencing more severe issues with their breathing, like consistent wheezing and coughing. They might have a condition that is referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. This disease is a group of progressive lung diseases, involving chronic bronchitis and emphysema. This condition in the majority of cases is a result of smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke. However, being subjected to other lung irritants over a period of time, as chemical fumes could aid in developing COPD.
Individuals that suffer from COPD have a very hard time breathing because of reduced amounts of air passing in and out of the airways. This might occur for either of the following reasons: the airways are producing more mucus than normal, clogging the airways. The walls around the airways become thick and swollen. The air sacs walls are damaged or destroyed. The air sacs, airways, and lungs lose their elasticity.
COPD has the potential to seriously restrict an individual’s capacity to engage in the kinds of physical activities they once enjoyed. It could even restrict the person’s ability to complete basic everyday tasks, like cleaning or showering.
Common Symptoms Of COPD
Symptoms for this disease include tightness in the chest, wheezing noise while inhaling and exhaling. It also could manifest as shortness of breath, specifically during exercise. Plus, a persistent cough produces excess amounts of mucus.
Symptoms such as these are not a natural feature of growing old. Therefore, it is vital to consult the health care provider if these symptoms are being experienced. It is crucial that treatment is sought as soon as possible, the reason being, COPD could lead to severe complications. If the disease is allowed to progress, the symptoms could become even worse. Individuals should visit an emergency room urgently if the following symptoms are being experienced: a rapid heartbeat. A lack of mental alertness, gray or blue lips or fingernails, and difficulty breathing or talking.
Receiving treatment at the onset of COPD symptoms could improve the outlook significantly. Although there is not a cure for COPD, there are treatments that could assist individuals in breathing better. It could also help with the remaining active. Treatment at the first sign of COPD could even retard the disease’s progression.