As adults age, they are likely to feel and see changes in their bodies. Some differences, like a slower metabolism or dipping energy levels, are expected. However, some differences may be indicative of health problems. Difficulty catching one's breath during daily activities or during exercise may not be a sign of getting older. Adults who begin experiencing chronic shortness of breath may be at risk for more serious diseases.
Shortness of breath could indicate heart troubles
Researchers from the University of Gothenburg found that 30 percent of individuals 65 and older suffered from chronic shortness of breath during exertion. If these individuals refrain from breaking a sweat, they may see a decline in their physical health. In addition, having difficulty breathing can greatly impact day-to-day activities and negatively impact mental health. Shortness of breath may also be a secondary symptom of another disease.
"Shortness of breath is often a sign of heart or lung disease because these two organs are most closely involved in the respiratory system," noted Nasser Ahmadi, a cardiology specialist.
Difficulty breathing may be due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which can include diseases like emphysema or refractory asthma. While this disease can't be cured, it can be managed and prevented.
A closer look at COPD
According to the COPD Foundation, 30 million Americans suffer from COPD. This disease affects the lungs' elasticity, making it difficult for air to escape. Shortness of breath is only one of the symptoms. In addition, patients could feel a tightness in their chest.
For those diagnosed, they can work with respiratory therapists to develop ways to manage their COPD. Individuals can try pulmonary rehabilitation, which emphasizes exercise and education to develop the highest level of breathing ability possible as well as adding an inhaler to their daily routine.
There are also preventative measures individuals can take to lower their risk for COPD. Doctors recommend avoiding cigarettes: The majority of individuals over 40 who suffer from this chronic disease have smoked. However, some individuals afflicted with COPD may also have a genetic predisposition. To manage COPD, the foundation recommended monitoring the air quality in your home. Removing irritants like paint and dust can make it easier for individuals to breathe - especially those receiving home care. In addition, monitoring for allergens like mites or cockroaches can make breathing easier.