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Effects of Aging on the Respiratory System

By

Rebecca Dezube

, MD, MHS, Johns Hopkins University

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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The effects of aging on the respiratory system are similar to those that occur in other organs: maximum function gradually declines. Age-related changes in the lungs include

In healthy people, these age-related changes seldom lead to symptoms. These changes contribute somewhat to an older person's reduced ability to do vigorous exercise, especially intense aerobic exercise, such as running, biking, and mountain climbing. However, age-related decreases in heart function may be a more important cause of such limitations.

Importantly, age-related changes in the lungs are compounded by the effects of heart and lung diseases, especially those caused by the destructive effects of smoking.

Did You Know?

  • In healthy people, age-related reductions in lung function seldom lead to symptoms, but they can contribute to an older person's reduced ability to do vigorous exercise.

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