Benjamin Chiam, MD, Department of Medicine, Pulmonary Division, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.
Don D. Sin, MD, FRCP(C), Department of Medicine, Pulmonary Division, University of Alberta, and The Institute of Health Economics, Edmonton, AB.
Respiratory conditions are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Although they are currently listed as the fifth leading cause of death in Canada, respiratory diseases are predicted to be the third leading cause of mortality by the year 2020, following ischemic heart disease and stroke.1 Furthermore, since the prevalence of these conditions increases with age, the adverse impact of respiratory illnesses on the Canadian health care system will grow enormously over the next few decades as the overall population ages2 and treatments for other common conditions, such as ischemic heart disease, stroke and diabetes, improve. A good understanding of the aging process of the respiratory system is clearly needed to formulate better strategies to prevent, diagnose and manage respiratory conditions in Canada.
Why are Respiratory Diseases so Prevalent in the Elderly?
The lungs of elderly persons are subject to a lifetime of exposure to known and unknown harmful agents. Decades may pass before the physical manifestations of cigarette smoke, pollution and other noxious environmental agents become clinically apparent.