iCliniq logo

Ask a Doctor Online Now

HomeHealth articlesagingCan Aging Cause Changes in the Lungs?

Aging Changes in Lungs - An Analytical Approach

Verified dataVerified data

4 min read


Aging can cause various changes in the lungs that can affect their function. Continue reading the article to learn more.

Written by

Dr. Surabhi M

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At September 6, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 26, 2024


The lungs are a pair of spongy, cone-shaped organs located in the chest that play a vital role in the respiratory system. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged between the body and the environment by the lungs. The mechanics of the lungs involve the process of breathing, which consists of two phases: inhalation (or inspiration) and exhalation (or expiration). The lungs are crucial for breathing and keeping the body healthy in general. They are susceptible to damage from smoking, respiratory infections, and environmental contaminants, which can result in lung conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer. As people age, the lungs undergo various changes that can affect their function.

What Are the Anatomical Changes in the Lungs While Aging?

The lungs undergo several anatomical changes as a part of the aging process. Some of the common anatomical changes in the lungs in old age include:

  • Decrease in Lung Volume: With age, the lungs become less elastic, and the rib cage becomes stiffer. This results in a decrease in lung volume, which can reduce the amount of air that can be inhaled and exhaled.

  • Thinning of Lung Tissue: The tissue that makes up the walls of the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs becomes thinner with age. This can lead to a decrease in the surface area available for gas exchange, which can affect lung function.

  • Changes in the Airways: The airways that lead to and from the lungs become narrower with age due to the thickening of the airway walls and the accumulation of mucus. This can cause breathing difficulties and increase the risk of respiratory infections.

  • Loss of Elasticity: The lungs become less elastic with age, which can affect the ability to breathe and lead to the development of lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

What Are the Effects of Aging on the Mechanism of Lung Mechanics?

Aging can have various effects on lung mechanics, leading to changes in lung function and respiratory health. Some of the effects of aging on lung mechanics include:

  • Reduced Lung Elasticity: With aging, the lung tissue becomes less elastic, which can make it harder to breathe and decrease lung function.

  • Reduced Lung Capacity: As people get older, their lungs can retain less air, which can cause breathing problems and make it hard to do physical activity.

  • Decreased Strength of Respiratory Muscles: The strength of the respiratory muscles, including the diaphragm, decreases with age, which can make it harder to breathe deeply and cough effectively.

  • Changes in Airway Structure: Aging can cause changes in the airway structure, such as thickening of the airway walls, which can contribute to the development of respiratory diseases.

  • Reduced Gas Exchange: The ability of the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide decreases with age, which can lead to decreased exercise tolerance and an increased risk of respiratory infections.

What Are the Effects of Aging on Respiratory Muscle Function?

Aging can also have various effects on respiratory muscle function, which can impact lung function and respiratory health. Some of the effects of aging on respiratory muscle function include:

  • Decreased Strength: The strength of the respiratory muscles, including the diaphragm and intercostal muscles, decreases with age, which can make it harder to breathe deeply and cough effectively.

  • Decreased Endurance: The respiratory muscles may tire more easily with age, leading to shortness of breath and difficulty with physical activity.

  • Changes in Muscle Composition: Aging can cause changes in the composition of the respiratory muscles, including a decrease in muscle mass and an increase in fat and connective tissue. This can contribute to reduced muscle strength and endurance.

  • Increased Stiffness: The respiratory muscles may become stiffer with age, which can make it harder to breathe deeply and effectively.

A reduced capacity to carry out everyday tasks and a higher risk of respiratory issues can result from the effects of ageing on respiratory muscle performance. However, regular exercise, particularly focused on respiratory muscle training, can help maintain and improve respiratory muscle function. Additionally, healthcare providers can work with older adults to develop individualized treatment plans to manage respiratory conditions and improve respiratory muscle function.

How to Protect the Lungs and Maintain a Better Function?

Maintaining good lung health is crucial for overall health and well-being. There are several ways to help protect the lungs and maintain better lung function:

  • Avoid Smoking: Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The most effective way to enhance lung health is to stop smoking. Be careful not to breathe in secondhand smoke.

  • Exercise Regularly: Exercise on a regular basis can help the lungs function better and strengthen the respiratory muscles. Try to exercise moderately most days of the week for at least 30 minutes, such as brisk walking or cycling.

  • Avoid Air Pollution: Exposure to air pollution can irritate the lungs and lead to respiratory problems. When the air quality is bad, stay inside and avoid exercising close to busy roads or industrial areas.

  • Practice Good Hygiene: The transmission of respiratory diseases can be slowed down by frequent hand washing and covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing.

  • Get Vaccinated: Vaccines can protect against respiratory infections such as influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia.

  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: The vitamins and minerals required to sustain lung health can be obtained from a balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

  • Manage Respiratory Conditions: If an individual has a respiratory condition such as asthma or COPD, work with a healthcare provider to develop a management plan to control the symptoms and reduce the risk of exacerbations.


The lungs are a vital part of the respiratory system, responsible for bringing oxygen into the body and removing carbon dioxide. Maintaining good lung health is crucial for overall health and well-being. There are several ways to help protect the lungs and maintain better lung function, including avoiding smoking, exercising regularly, avoiding air pollution, practicing good hygiene, getting vaccinated, maintaining a healthy diet, and managing respiratory conditions. These actions can help to improve lung health, lower the risk of respiratory diseases, and enhance overall quality of life.

Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)


Community Banner Mobile
By subscribing, I agree to iCliniq's Terms & Privacy Policy.

Source Article ArrowMost popular articles

Ask your health query to a doctor online

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)

*guaranteed answer within 4 hours

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. iCliniq privacy policy