Although asthma is primarily a disease of childhood, its prevalence amongst the elderly is also very significant. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the population of the elderly with asthma to be about 4 million, which accounts for 7.7% of the asthma burden in the United States of America. For some, it’s a continuation of asthma that began in childhood while it develops as a new condition in others.
Asthma in the elderly tends to be more serious and is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. This is often due to the presence of co-morbidities like diabetes and heart diseases that are present in most seniors. Thus, asthma in the elderly is a condition that must be properly and expertly diagnosed, reserved, and managed.
For people aged 65 years and older who have either been newly diagnosed with asthma or are continuing their asthma care, here are some great tips to help you manage this condition in the best way possible.
1. APPOINTMENTS WITH THE DOCTOR ARE SACROSANCT
There is no substitute for keeping up with medical appointments as scheduled when managing asthma as an elderly patient. These appointments are important for monitoring response to treatment and assessing how well your symptoms are controlled. The doctor will also help draw up and update your written asthma action plan for managing symptoms and acute exacerbations. The appointment also gives you the chance to voice your fears and ask burning questions. Compliance with appointments can make all the difference for you; strict adherence is therefore of huge importance.
2. GET VACCINATED
Respiratory viral infections like the flu and pneumonia are more serious in asthma patients. This is because they have more sensitive and swollen airways that viruses can quickly complicate. Vaccinations are, therefore, very important to protect you against severe complications. Make sure to contact your healthcare provider to get influenza and pneumococcal vaccines to protect yourself.
3. ENSURE ANY CO-MORBIDITIES ARE WELL MANAGED
The presence of chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer can complicate the management of asthma in quite a few ways. They can make symptoms of asthma or make responses to treatment ineffective. Drugs used to manage asthma can also exacerbate the symptoms of other co-morbidities and vice versa. For example, drugs like theophylline and salbutamol used in asthma treatment can aggravate heart diseases such as congestive heart failure and ischemic heart disease. Thus, expert management of co-morbidities is critical to controlling asthma and preventing life-threatening complications from occurring. Drug interactions also have to be looked out for and managed as soon as they occur.
4. AVOID ENVIRONMENT TRIGGERS
Identifying your triggers and staying away from them is just as important in adults. You must make sure to stay away from smoke, dust, pollen grains, and animal dander. Installing air filters in your home can improve the air quality, which would be very helpful. You might also have to give your pets away or greatly minimize your contact with them. Cessation of smoking is also compulsory for elderly patients with asthma.
5. MAKE HEALTHY LIFESTYLE CHOICES
For effective management of your asthma and your overall well-being, you must make healthy choices. Staying as physically active as possible has been shown to be beneficial, so get as much exercise as you can reasonably tolerate. Diet modification and weight loss can also greatly improve your asthma and are thus encouraged.
In conclusion, asthma in the elderly is not to be ignored. If a positive response to treatment is to be obtained, the attending physician must be skilled and experienced, and the patient must be compliant and make smart decisions. Following these five tips as a senior can help you obtain good control over asthma, reducing the chances of acute exacerbations and hospital admissions.