Lower sensitivity of respiratory centers to hypoxia or hypercapnia in older subjects results in a diminished venti-latory response in case of acute disease such as heart failure, infection, or airway obstruction, and thus delays important clinical symptoms and signs such as dyspnea and tachypnea, which are important for the diagnosis of pneumonia and appreciation of its severity (Kronenberg et al., 1973; Peterson et al., 1981). Aging is also associated with a decreased perception of added resistive loads, such as that induced by asthma or increased airway secretions. Indeed, older subjects have a lower perception of methacholine-induced bronchoconstriction when compared with younger subjects (Cuttitta et al., 2001).
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