Richard Washburn, 66, was diagnosed with asthma two weeks ago.
"I could hear the wheezing and I thought, that's not normal," he said.
But doctors say he had it for years.
"It explains a lot of things in my life that I wondered about that I didn't have answers to, particularly thoughts went back to high school football and being out of breath," Washburn said.
A new study finds as baby boomers with asthma enter their 60s, their risk of death from asthma is 14 times higher than in younger patients. Their overall general health also tends to be worse, including greater sensitivity to allergies and increased body pain. Doctors say it's important to recognize the symptoms.
"Clearly a family history of allergy or asthma is a major risk factor, beyond that; shortness of breath, cough, wheezing," said Dr. Clifford Bassett of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York.
The study also found that an alarming number of older patients are often misdiagnosed or undertreated. That can lead to serious complications including decreased lung function.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, only 53 percent of asthmatic boomers use their prescribed inhalers.
"When you're having symptoms two or more days a week, it's a warning sign that you may need daily medication to control your asthma," Bassett said.
Washburn never took his symptoms seriously when he was younger. But now that he's older he plans to stay on top of his condition. He says the inhalers have made a difference.
"The biggest thing is the wheezing stopped. I don't hear the wheezing anymore," he said.
Doctors say asthma can be controlled as long as you get proper treatment.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, asthma costs the economy an estimated $20.7 billion each year in medical expenses and missed work.
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