Sunday, January 15, 2006

vital capacity

Vital capacity measures the volume of air a person can blowout of the lungs after a deep breath. William B. Kannel and Helen Hubert of Boston University School of Medicine report that vital capacity can predict both long-term and short-term mortality. They say, "This pulmonary function measurement appears to be an indicator of general health and vigor and literally, a measure of living capacity. "
Vital capacity falls with age, though the reason for the decline is not clear. It had been thought that vital capacity reflected how well the lungs function. But Kannel says his studies indicate it has more to do with chest size, how well the muscles work, and how healthy a person is. The ease with which the chest wall can expand and contract is an important factor.
A person whose vital capacity is always low is not going to do as well as someone whose level is always high. Many people believe that vital capacity can pick out people who are going to die 10, 20, or 30 years from now. So far, exercise or physical training does not seem to increase vital capacity. Efforts are increasing to learn what controls this characteristic and how to manipulate it.
Miller, J. A. "Making Old Age Measure Up," in Aging. Goldstein, E. C., ed. Vol. 2, Art. 12. Boca Raton, Fl.: Social Issues Resource Series, Inc., 1981.

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