Fundamentals - Gerontology, part 2: Respiratory and Cardiac Changes in Aging Adults

by Ellis Parker February 09, 2023 Updated: August 09, 2023 2 min read

  • 0:00 What to expect - Aging Adults
  • 00:19 Respiratory system changes
  • 1:15 Cardiovascular system changes
  • 2:06 Quiz Time!

Full Transcript

Hi, I'm Ellis, and in this video, I'll be doing the physiological changes of the older adult, specifically, the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Now, this card can be found in our gerontology section in our Fundamentals flashcard deck, so if you have that deck, you can grab it, grab this card, and follow along with me.

So their respiratory system, the older adult is likely to have a decreased lung capacity, decreased lung tissue elasticity, and weaker respiratory muscles, and so all three of those factors combined is going to increase the amount of work or effort that it takes for them to breathe efficiently. They are going to potentially, so they're more likely to have an increase in the anterior-posterior chest diameter and a decrease in their cough reflex. So it is harder and more work for them to expel foreign material or cough stuff up, right? And all these factors combined is ultimately a risk for infection, right? So they're much more likely to have things like pneumonia, and they're likely to experience breathing difficulties or abnormal breathing patterns like sleep apnea.

And then we'll move to the cardiovascular system. And similarly to the respiratory system, the older adult is more likely to have a decrease in their heart muscle efficacy and in the strength. So because the heart is not pumping as efficiently and isn't quite as strong, it's going to lead to a decrease in cardiac output. They also may experience incomplete valve closure, which is going to increase their risk for murmurs. And because those vessels are going to experience stiffening and calcification, they're more likely to have atherosclerosis. And all of those factors at play are going to lead to a higher risk for a elevated systolic blood pressure, and older adults are also at a higher risk for orthostatic hypotension.

What three changes in the respiratory system of an older adult may lead to an increase of the work and effort that it takes to breathe efficiently? The three changes are a decrease in lung capacity, a decrease in lung elasticity, and a decrease in the respiratory muscles. In what way does cardiac output change for an older adult? Cardiac output decreases due to the decrease in efficacy and strength of the cardiac muscles. What leads to a higher incidence of murmurs in older adults? Incomplete valve closure.

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