Aging, Diabetes, and Hypertension Are Associated With Decreased Nasal Mucociliary Clearance

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We showed previously that nasal mucociliary clearance was decreased in critically ill elderly subjects, most of whom had diabetes mellitus (DM) and/or hypertension (HTN). To determine if these changes were due to the effects of aging, disease, or critical illness, we studied nasal mucociliary clearance and mucus properties in an ambulatory population consisting of young, elderly, and healthy subjects and those with DM, HTN, or both.


Of 440 subjects contacted, 252 entered the study. The subjects were divided into the following groups: (1) healthy (n = 79, 18-94 years, 50 men) and (2) DM and/or HTN, of which 37 had DM (14-90 years, 12 men), 52 had HTN (23-90 years, 12 men), and 84 had both DM and HTN (25-82 years, 33 men). Subjects were also grouped by age: < 40 years, 40 to 59 years, and ≥ 60 years. We assessed demographic and clinical data, quality of life using the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) questionnaire, nasal mucociliary clearance using the saccharine transit test (STT), and in vitro mucus properties by examining the sneeze (high airflow) clearability and contact angle. A logistic regression analysis for prolonged STT > 12 min was used, and we controlled for age, sex, and diseases.


Subjects aged > 60 years reported a decreased SF-36 physical component relative to other age groups. Sex, BMI, BP, heart rate, pulse oximetry, blood glucose level, and mucus properties were not associated with prolonged STT. Aging and DM and/or HTN independently increased the risk of prolonged STT.


Aging and DM, HTN, or both diseases are independently associated with decreased nasal mucociliary clearance. This may predispose toward respiratory infections.

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