Air Quality Important for Older Adults

Lung function problems and inflammation for older adults may be affected by air pollution

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Air pollution is a concern for everyone focused on their health. Older adults may be more at risk of harm from air pollution.

A recent conference presentation suggests that people over 60 are at risk for having impaired lung function and inflammation when they live in areas with higher levels of air pollution. This study found that people who lived in areas with more small particles in the air had worse lung function and more inflammation.

However, this study only shows a link. It is not clear that air pollution is the cause of the lung problems.

"Ask a doctor how to keep your lungs healthy."

In the study, Jennifer Ailshire, PhD of the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, looked at 4,000 adults over age 60. Dr. Ailshire measured lung function with a breathing test.

They also measured levels of c-reactive protein, which is higher when people have inflammation. The people’s tests were compared to the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality measurements for the area they lived in.

This was true even when other risk factors for lung function problems and inflammation were taken into account – like race, smoking status and body weight.

Dr. Ailshire concluded that older adults are at risk for problems with lung function and inflammation when they live in areas with high pollution.

This means that there could be other aspects related to pollution, like poverty, which could also be influencing lung function. Patients can talk with their doctor about how air quality may impact them and learn ways to protect lung health.

This study was presented November 16 at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. The authors disclose no conflicts of interest.

Because it was presented at a meeting, it may not have had the chance to be reviewed by other experts in the field.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 25, 2012
Last Updated:
November 27, 2012