Effects of the aging process on respiratory function

Gerontology. 2009;55(5):505-10. doi: 10.1159/000235853. Epub 2009 Aug 27.


Background: The identification of breathing patterns in healthy elderly individuals and changes in the respiratory system related to the normal aging process is important to detect and prevent respiratory dysfunction.

Objectives: To assess and compare respiratory function between adults and elderly individuals according to baseline conditions.

Methods: Nineteen adults aged 20-59 years (group 1), 12 elderly aged 60-69 years (group 2) and 12 elderly above 69 years of age (group 3) who were all nonsmokers, untrained and with normal pulmonary function tests were studied using calibrated respiratory inductive plethysmography to assess tidal volume (Vt), respiratory frequency (f), minute ventilation, mean inspiratory flow [Vt/inspiratory time (Ti)], inspiratory duty cycle (Ti/total cycle time), labored breathing index (an asynchrony index measurement), percentage of rib cage motion and abdominal motion. Measurements of the maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP), maximal expiratory pressure and transcutaneous oxygen saturation were also obtained.

Results: The MIP was statistically significantly lower in group 2 (54.58 +/- 32.37 cm H2O) and group 3 (54.58 +/- 33.61 cm H2O) compared to group 1 (92.11 +/- 43.22 cm H2O; p = 0.037). There were no significant differences between the groups regarding breathing patterns, respiratory variables and thoracoabdominal motion. No statistically significant differences between groups 2 and 3 were found for any of the investigated variables.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that the aging process of the respiratory system reduces the inspiratory muscle strength but does not have a significant impact on breathing pattern variables.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plethysmography
  • Respiratory Mechanics
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*
  • Spirometry
  • Young Adult