Healthy Lungs in Older Adults

October is Healthy Lung Month! 

As we age, certain physiological changes occur that causes a decline in lung function. The bones of the rib cage become thinner, the diaphragm weakens, changes in the nervous system can cause you to take in less oxygen, and a more fragile immune system leaves your body less able to fight off lung infections. That’s why it’s especially important to keep your lungs healthy as you get older.

Here are some tips to keep your lungs healthy and prevent the changes associated with aging:

  1. Breathe! Certain breathing exercises can help build lung capacity. Diaphragmatic breathing involves focusing on the lower diaphragm as you breathe in. Focus on extending the length of breaths to strengthen your diaphragm and increase lung capacity.
  2. Stay active. An accumulation of abdominal fat can limit the ability of the diaphragm to fully expand the lungs. Walking, tai chi, or swimming are all good exercise options for older adults. Additionally, staying sedentary for too long allows mucous and fluid to settle in your lungs, which can make you more prone to disease and harm lung capacity.
  3. Don’t smoke. Smoking is one of the most harmful things for your lungs, and will cause them to age quickly. Avoid second-hand smoke as well, as it can be damaging to the lungs.
  4. Avoid air pollution. The elderly have a harder time clearing particles from their lungs. Minimize exposure to air pollutants—both indoor and outdoor. Indoor pollutants include things like mold, pollen, secondhand smoke, and chemicals in the home and workplace. Avoid high traffic areas outdoors where pollution can be high.
  5. Get vaccinated. As we get older, our immune systems are more susceptible to infection. Protect your immunity by getting the flu shot every year, and ask your doctor if you should be vaccinated from pneumonia. Wash your hands often and avoid crowds during flu season.

Need motivation to get up and moving, or someone to encourage deep breathing exercises? Our caregivers are here to help! Your caregiver can help promote Healthy Lung Month by doing these things with you and taking an active part in your lung health.