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Asthma and Older Adults

Asthma is a serious disease, and may complicate other lung or heart problems especially in older adults. Common symptoms include: coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed. Some of the signs and symptoms of asthma also are signs of other lung and heart problems - see a doctor.

It is likely that asthma in older adults is under-diagnosed. About 8% of Utahns have asthma, but people over 65 report an average of only 4.5%. People in Utah with asthma over age 55 are hospitalized more frequently because of asthma, are hospitalized almost twice as long as younger people with asthma, and pay almost twice as much.

Hospital Discharge Database:

  • The number of people in Utah over 65 that died because of asthma doubled between 1980 and 2002 - despite significant medication and treatment improvements.
  • Older adults with asthma are under-treated.
  • Nationally, only about 1/3 of older adults with asthma receive proper controllers - medications that can prevent asthma attacks.
  • Not even half (40%) of older adults with asthma receive medication that can ease breathing during asthma attacks (rescue medication).
  • One-fifth of older adults with asthma are taking oral steroids which can have a lot of negative side effects, instead of inhaled steroids which have fewer side effects., Kelly, Janis; vol. l4, no. 9, Accessed Nov 9, 2005

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