Breathe Easier with National Respiratory Care Week

Aside from heart disease and cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease is the leading cause of death for people ages 65 and older.

With National Respiratory Care Week upon us, let’s talk about these health issues that affect so many people around the world, in particular seniors.

In order to live, your body requires a constant steady stream of oxygen. Your body’s respiratory system plays a major role in that as it not only allows oxygen in but filters out carbon dioxide.
Your respiratory system is comprised of three major parts:
  1. The airway (which includes the nose, mouth, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles)
  2. The lungs
  3. The muscles of the respiration
Together, they all work to help allow oxygen in, pass it around to all the cells throughout the body, and help pump it in and out. The respiratory system is so crucial that if it’s not working properly for even five minutes, it can cause brain damage, and eventually death. As we age, our respiratory muscle strength decreases, affecting our ability to cough (clear the airways) successfully, and preventing us from fighting infections and other diseases.
The respiratory rate (RR) can be measured to determine how well someone is breathing. The RR is the number of breaths per minute someone takes. One of the first indicators of someone’s health declining is a change in their normal RR. For older people, normal respiratory rates can range between 12-18 breaths per minute for those living on their own, and 16-25 breaths per minute for those in long-term care.

While many people assume that only those who are smokers experience respiratory issues, they’re wrong. A number of factors can contribute to experiencing respiratory problems. The following are some common causes:

  • environmental exposure (pollution, cigarette smoke, etc)
  • Infections
  • Genetics
  • Allergies
  • Pneumonia
  • Lung cancer
  • Asthma
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Emphysema
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Chronic Bronchitis

Common symptoms for those experiencing respiratory health problems include breathlessness or wheezing, a constant cough, chest pain, and coughing up blood, mucus or phlegm.

If you experience any of these causes or symptoms, you are at a higher risk for developing respiratory problems. Talk with your doctor for treatment. If left untreated, they can cause serious long-term illness or even death.

Millions of people suffer from some form of respiratory ailment. While some problems are inevitable, many can be prevented. The American Lung Association recommends the following ways to help your respiratory system be strong and healthy:
  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid pollutants (radon, secondhand smoke, dusts, and other harmful chemicals)
  • Be aware of outdoor air quality
  • Practice good hygiene (wash your hands regularly to prevent infections)
  • Get vaccinated from the flu
  • Get regular checkups from your doctor
  • Exercise
  • Eat a nutritious diet
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get adequate sleep

Breathe easier and pledge to do one or more of the above-mentioned tips for National Respiratory Care Week.