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Elderly breathlessness down to age

13th October 2005

Breathlessness or dyspnoea in older people can occur even if the patient has no prior history of heart conditions or respiratory problems, according to new research.

The study, conducted by a team from the Laboratoire des Adaptations Physiologiques aux Activites Physiques in France, showed that dyspnoea affects the majority of elderly people to some degree and is more prevalent in women.

Lead by Claire de Bisschop, the team studied a population of 750 volunteers aged between 66 and 88 from Bordeaux and the surrounding areas.

The participants filled out questionnaires and took part in one medical to determine their respiratory function measurements.

Respiratory volumes, maximal flow and expiratory flow limitation (EFL) measurements were taken.

According to Medical News Today EFL is measured when a person breathes through the mouth, applying negative pressure at the mouth and drawing out the air within the lungs, thus increasing the expired flow. A lack of increase in this flow is called EFL.

Of the 750 participants 47 per cent had EFL and it was not only more common in females but also in the shortest people.

The level of dyspnoea was determined by the level of EFL and despite the majority of people in this group suffering from previous heart or lung diseases, 15 per cent of those affected had no prior medical condition.

The authors concluded that the findings pointed towards aging itself as the cause of the condition.

The study was published in the European Respiratory Journal.