Evaluation of Dyspnea in the Elderly

Clin Geriatr Med. 2017 Nov;33(4):503-521. doi: 10.1016/j.cger.2017.06.004. Epub 2017 Jul 17.


Dyspnea is due to an imbalance between the demand to breathe and the ability to breathe. The prevalence is ∼30% for those 65 years or older with walking on a level surface or up an incline. Dyspnea is a strong predictor of mortality in elderly individuals. Anemia, cardiovascular disease, deconditioning, psychological disorders, and respiratory diseases are common causes of dyspnea. Initial treatments to relieve breathing discomfort should be directed toward improving the pathophysiology of the underlying disease. Simple and inexpensive strategies to relieve dyspnea are available. This article provides an update on the evaluation of chronic dyspnea in elderly individuals.

Keywords: Ability to breathe; Acupuncture; Demand to breathe; Dyspnea domains and descriptors; Exercise training; Inspiratory muscle training; Prevalence of dyspnea; Pursed-lips breathing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Causality
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Management
  • Dyspnea* / diagnosis
  • Dyspnea* / epidemiology
  • Dyspnea* / etiology
  • Dyspnea* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Function Tests / methods*
  • Risk Factors