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How Aging Affects the Respiratory System

“For breath is life, so if you breathe well, you will live long on Earth.” This Sanskrit proverb is a piece of ancient wisdom that still rings true today. Learn how aging affects the respiratory system, so you can continue to breathe well for years to come.

How Aging Affects the Respiratory System

As we age, we become aware of the way that age affects our bodies and the different ways we need to care for ourselves as a result. Many of those changes are obvious, such as age-related memory changes. However, some systems in our body get less attention than others, though they’re no less important to our health. For example, have you ever wondered how aging affects the respiratory system?

What Is the Respiratory System?

Your respiratory system refers to the parts of your body that help you breathe and process oxygen. This system has two main goals. The first goal is to bring oxygen into your body, which helps fuel all of our bodily functions. The second goal is to clean your body of carbon dioxide, a waste gas created when your body processes oxygen. If that sounds a bit complex, you may be surprised to learn that you do it every day without even thinking about it. After all, breathing is the main function of your respiratory system. That’s why it’s so important to keep it in good shape.

How Does Aging Change the Way I Breathe?

To understand how aging affects the respiratory system, it’s helpful to understand how your lungs bring oxygen in and out of your body. Many people don’t realize that lungs don’t have any muscles of their own to depend on. Instead, they rely on other muscles in your body to get their job done, such as your heart and your diaphragm. As we grow older, our bodies can be affected by age-related muscle loss. This means the lungs have less power to do their job.

In addition to that, the lungs themselves experience the effects of aging. Our lungs reach peak condition around the age of 35. After that, their function can decline, and our lungs hold less air as a result. This issue, combined with a loss of muscle and other potential age-related issues like cardiovascular disease, can lead to a decrease in lung capacity. So if you’ve noticed that it’s a little harder to catch your breath than it used to be, there’s probably a good reason for that.

This might sound scary, but don’t panic. It’s a natural part of aging, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your health will be adversely affected as a result. You should also know that there are things you can do to improve your lung capacity and keep breathing easy throughout your golden years.

How to Improve Your Lung Capacity

Once you know how your respiratory system works, you can start to make an effort to improve it. You can build up your lung capacity and make breathing easier with just a few simple lifestyle changes:

  • Are you a smoker? Some smokers in their golden years believe that there’s no point in quitting as a senior. Quitting smoking is always a good way to improve your lungs. You’ll feel positive effects in as little as 20 minutes, regardless of how long you’ve had the habit. The time to quit is now!
  • Get regular exercise. While some loss in muscle occurs with age, you can build that muscle back up with a consistent exercise routine. Movement is also good for building the capacity of your respiratory system. Consider a daily walk, an aerobics class, or other sources of movement-based exercise.
  • Take care of your health. Avoid respiratory infections and immune system issues by getting your flu vaccine and following your doctor’s advice. If you are having breathing issues, discuss them with your doctor.


Learning how aging affects the respiratory system is the best way to keep yourself breathing easy in your golden years. If you need more advice, talk to your doctor about how to improve your respiratory health.

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