The official blog of the Lung Institute.

Natural Lung Function Decline vs. Lung Function Decline with COPD

27 Apr 2016
| Under COPD | Posted by | 10 Comments
Lung Function Decline with Age vs. COPD

Lung Function with COPD

Lung function naturally declines with age. Aging affects the entire body, including the lungs, and while the majority of the population can extend youthful function through healthy habits, smokers and those with lung diseases, such as COPD, experience the decline at an accelerated rate.

Some age-related changes in the lungs include:

  • Decreases in peak airflow and gas exchange.
  • Decreases in measures of lung function such as vital capacity (the maximum amount of air that can be breathed out following a maximum inhalation).
  • Weakening of the respiratory muscles.
  • Decline in the effectiveness of lung defense mechanisms.

These changes typically do not cause noticeable symptoms in healthy people. Older people might notice difficulty in sustaining vigorous exercise, however, this is typically a combination of heart function decline combined with lung function decline. Those who are obese or smoke are likely to see symptoms of lung function decline sooner than healthier people. Older people are more likely to experience respiratory infections, so getting vaccinations for conditions like influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia are especially important preventative measures.

The most important preventative step, however, is quitting smoking. Smokers are 13 times more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than those who have never smoked. A typical middle-aged smoker’s lung age looks like that of someone 10 years older. The single best thing a smoker can do to improve their well-being and extend their life is to quit smoking. Take a look at this graph that illustrates various rates of lung function decline.

Lung Function Decline

Lung function decline graph courtesy of American Family Physician. FEV1 is a standard measurement of lung function, and measures the volume of air that a person blows out in a second.

Lung function decline graph courtesy of American Family Physician. FEV1 is a standard measurement of lung function, and measures the volume of air that a person blows out in a second.

Take note that a smoker who quits smoking at age 40 experiences the same average lung function decline as someone who never smoked. This illustrates the importance of quitting smoking today for a better quality of life tomorrow.

For those who have been diagnosed with COPD, there are various stages. Having a severe and progressive lung disease will shorten your lifespan, but this depends on a number of variables, like the overall health of a person. The GOLD System was developed by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease to be used as a measurement system to track the progression of COPD by stages. The various stages in the GOLD System include:

  • Stage 1 – very mild COPD (chronic coughing, coughing up mucus, breathing discomfort, shortness of breath)
  • Stage 2 – moderate COPD (Above symptoms combined with a drop in pulmonary function test results)
  • Stage 3 – severe emphysema / chronic bronchitis (Above symptoms combined with additional issues such as unintended weight loss and frequent respiratory infections)
  • Stage 4 – very severe COPD (Above symptoms with pulmonary function test results below 30 percent and trouble breathing that can be life threatening)

While lung function declines naturally with age, those with COPD experience a much more accelerated rate of decline than those without lung disease. Many COPD sufferers have slowed the progression of their disease following stem cell treatment from the Lung Institute. If you or a loved one suffers from COPD, contact one of our patient coordinators today by calling (800) 729-3065 to see if you are a candidate for stem cell therapy.


  1. PB

    1 month ago

    Dear Mary,

    Thanks for your comment and your questions. It’s good to hear that you have been taking proactive steps in your lifestyle choices to achieve better overall health and better lung health. COPD is a progressive disease, meaning that it will worsen over time. However, it’s important to keep in mind that COPD affects everyone differently and at different rates of progression. Make sure that you stick with your current treatment plan, healthy lifestyle choices and continue seeing your doctor regularly. If you notice a change in your symptoms, it’s important to call your doctor right away to discuss your COPD and treatment plan.

    While stem cell therapy works to promote healing from within the lungs, it will not be able to completely eliminate the progression of the disease and it is not a cure for COPD. Many people with COPD who have come to us for treatment have noticed improvements to their quality of life and breathing. We are happy to answer any questions you have regarding stem cell treatment options with us, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with a patient coordinator. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  2. Mary

    1 month ago

    I smoked for much of my adult life. I quit 7 yrs ago whir diagnosed with mild COPD. I am otherwise in good health, not overweight, and stay fairly active.
    Walking, biking, climbing stairs without difficulty. My question is this.
    Is it inevitable that my disease will progress regardless of having a healthy lifestyle now? Also, would I be a candidate for stem cell therapy? Could that eliminate progression of the disease? Thank you.

  3. sh

    2 months ago

    Dear Carmen,

    At this time, insurance companies, including passport insurance, don’t cover treatment. We are hopeful that treatment will be covered in the future, but it will take some time before insurance companies see a financial benefit and decide to cover treatment.

    Treatment is done over the course of three consecutive days and is outpatient, so while you’ll need to be near a clinic for three days, you can spend your evenings in the comfort of your home or other lodging nearby–and yes, you should be able to go right back to work.

    The Lung Institute operates a clinic in Dallas, TX, as well as at locations in Scottsdale, AZ; Tampa, FL; Pittsburgh, PA; and Franklin, TN.

    If you have further questions, please give us a call to speak with one of our patient coordinators. They have a wealth of knowledge about stem cells, treatment options, candidacy and cost. Feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149. We hope to hear from you soon.

    Best Regards,
    The Lung Institute

  4. Carmen Dunn

    2 months ago

    Is the treatment covered by United Health ins? How long do you do treatment? Will I be able to go straight back to work?What locations in Texas are available ?

  5. PB

    4 months ago

    Dear Tina,

    We’re sorry to hear that your friend has been going through such a difficult time. Many people with lung disease have trouble with fatigue and receiving proper nutrition. Because lung disease affects everyone differently, it’s hard to know how it will affect your friend and what to expect. If you’re concerned, it’s important to talk to someone who can help you. You could try finding a support group or talking with a mental health professional. These kinds of people and places can help you by giving you coping tools and techniques. You could also try talking with your friend and maybe even cooking your friend’s favorite meal. We hope this is helpful, and we wish you and your friend the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  6. Tina Adams

    4 months ago

    I have a friend that have severe cold. He just got home from the hospital and smoked immediately upon arrival. He is very thin, can hardly walk two feet before becoming exhausted. He refuses to eat more than one meal a day when he is home. I’m very concerned and am not sure what to expect. He has Medicaid, and the hospital won’t keep him longer that 5 days. However he is a Vet. And was diagnosed at the VA hospital.

  7. PB

    4 months ago

    Dear Anita,

    Thanks for your questions. There isn’t an age limit for the stem cell treatments with us. We’ve treated patients with a variety of ages and at different stages of the disease. Many of our patients have found fundraising for treatment to be helpful. To read more about treatment fundraising, click here. We would be happy to answer your questions regarding stem cell treatment options, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with a patient coordinator. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  8. Anita Brown

    4 months ago

    Is there an age limit above which stem cell replacement cannot be attempted?

    Also, do you have a list of private donors who might be able to help my friend who cannot afford the procedure?

  9. Maren Auxier

    1 year ago

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for your message. 70% of our patients report an improved quality of life after receiving stem cell therapy from the Lung Institute. If you’d like more information or to see if you qualify, please feel free to contact one of our patient coordinators at (855) 313-1149.



  10. Laura Jobe

    1 year ago

    What is your success rate?

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* All treatments performed at Lung Institute utilize autologous stem cells, meaning those derived from a patient's own body. No fetal or embryonic stem cells are utilized in Lung Institute's procedures. Lung Institute aims to improve patients' quality of life and help them breathe easier through the use of autologous stem cell therapy. To learn more about how stem cells work for lung disease, click here.

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