American Academy of Health and Fitness
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Integumentary (Skin) System
Skeletal System
Muscular System
Nervous System
Endocrine System
Cardiovascular System
Lymphatic (Immune) System
Respiratory System
Digestive System
Urinary System
Reproductive System

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Respiratory System

The major function of this system is the delivery of air to sites in the lungs where gas exchange can occur between the air and circulating blood.

The effects of aging on the lungs are physiologically and anatomically similar to those that occur during the development of mild emphysema. Although aging affects ventilation, gas exchange, compliance, and other parameters of lung function as well as the defense mechanisms of the lungs, pure age-related changes do not lead to significant airway obstruction in the nonsmoker.

Many factors interact to reduce the efficiency of the respiratory system in elderly individuals. Elastic tissue deteriorates throughout the body and reduces the lungs’ ability to inflate and deflate. The rib cage does not move as freely because of arthritic changes. This, in combination with the changes in elasticity, causes a reduction in chest movement which limits respiratory volume. These changes contribute to the reduction in exercise performance and capabilities seen with increasing age.

Finally, some degree of emphysema is normally found in people aged 50-70. On average, roughly 1 square foot of respiratory membrane is lost each year after age 30. However, the extent varies widely depending upon the lifetime exposure to cigarette smoke and other irritants.


Not so fun fact:

Emphysema is a chronic, progressive condition characterized by shortness of breath and an inability to tolerate physical exertion. The underlying problem is destruction of respiratory exchange surfaces. As the condition progresses, the reduction in exchange surface limits the ability to provide adequate oxygen. The condition is widespread and is to some degree a normal consequence of aging. An estimated 66% of adult males and 25% of females have detectable areas of emphysema in their lungs. Unfortunately, the damage is irreversible.

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Contact Information:

American Academy of Health and Fitness
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Fax (703) 451-4952

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