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Posted: October 25, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Simple steps to breathing easy

It’s National Respiratory Care Week and Alex Belmont, Manager of the Cardiopulmonary Department at Newton Medical Center, says keeping lungs healthy as we get older requires some special attention.

That’s because seniors are especially vulnerable to respiratory problems, including complications from the flu, dangerous forms of pneumonia, and chronic conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Luckily, there are steps seniors can take to keep their lungs in proper working order as they age. Respiratory Therapists from the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) offer the following tips to help seniors avoid respiratory problems as they get older:

• If you smoke, find a smoking cessation program in your area to help you quit, and check with Medicare to see if they will cover the program under their new smoking cessation counseling benefit.

• Get an annual influenza shot. These shots are usually offered every year beginning in October and are particularly important for older people, who are more likely to suffer serious complications from the flu.

• Receive the one-time pneumonia vaccine, which is usually given at age 65 or older. This protects you from some of the most deadly forms of the disease.

• Make dietary changes to keep your weight in check.

• Get regular exercise to keep your lungs — and the rest of your body as well — in good working order.

• Visit a COPD Support Group in your area to learn more on managing COPD (Newton Medical Center has a support group that meets the thirdFriday of each month at 1100 in the auditorium of the Physicians Pavilion).

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