New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that more than 60% of asthma deaths occurred in people aged 75 and over. In total, 394 deaths were recorded in 2012 affecting 260 females and 134 males.
The 2012 ABS data released yesterday also found that women over 75 years old were almost three times more likely to die from asthma compared to their male counterparts.
Although up to one in seven older Australians have asthma, about half of all people with asthma aged 75 years and over have not been diagnosed by a doctor.
Associate Professor Noela Whitby AM, Chairman of the National Asthma Council Australia and General Practitioner said: “Many older people think that breathlessness is just part of ageing and do not mention it to their doctors. Contrary to popular belief, people can get asthma for the first time later in their lives.
“Untreated asthma is especially risky for older people. You should never ignore or put up with asthma symptoms. Tell your doctor immediately if you ever have shortness of breath, a whistling sound when you breathe, or a tight feeling in the chest.”
Associate Professor Whitby advises the following for older people:
- Tell your doctor about any breathing problems, because it is important to have a thorough health check for asthma and other medical conditions. Remember to tell your doctor if you have ever been a smoker (even if you quit years ago) and when the symptoms occur because these clues can help with finding the cause.
- Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to check you are using your asthma inhaler correctly. Using your inhaler the wrong way can make your asthma medications less effective.
- Whenever you start taking any new medicine for asthma or another condition, make sure your doctor and your pharmacist know about all the other medicines you are taking, including any over-the-counter or complementary medicines you use, as some medicines can trigger asthma symptoms.
- Have a personal asthma action plan written by your doctor which tells you which medicines to take, what to do when you have symptoms (or your asthma worsens over a few days), and what to do in an emergency.
The asthma action plan is available in hard copy version or in an accessible smartphone app called Asthma Buddy. More information on these resources and asthma management is available at the National Asthma Council Australia website:
(Source: National Asthma Council Australia)