Today, Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Controlling Asthma By Controlling Your Weight

Controlling asthma is a difficult proposition for the nearly 15 million people in the United States who suffer from this condition.  Despite the prevalence of this condition, it garners little news coverage when compared to other health conditions.  This is despite the fact that asthma is responsible for a half million hospitalizations, 5,000 deaths and over 130 million days of restricted activity every year.

The emotional impact that asthma has on the lives of individuals and the families who depend upon them or who must take care of them is enormous. The financial impact is significant as well.  In 1990 direct medical expenditures amounted to more than 3.5 billion dollars and indirect economic losses were calculated to be almost $3 billion more. Just four years later the total cost was estimated to have increased to almost $11 billion. 

The Asthma and Obesity Link

Despite the advances in health care which includes improved ways of controlling asthma, costs associated with asthma are rising and it is not simply attributable to the escalating costs of health care.  The fact is that that the total number of asthma cases is dramatically increasing and it is increasing in a direct proportion with the rise in obesity. Because of this, studies are now looking at the relationship between obesity and asthma.

Unfortunately, obesity has become the most common nutritional problem for children in the Western world.  Some studies estimate that 15% of children may now be considered obese, whereas others are placing that number as high as 40%.  Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30.  A person with a BMI of 25 or more is considered to be overweight.

Obesity has already been linked to numerous diseases.  It is also blamed for increasing the severity of illnesses such as hypertension, dyslipidemia (which is a disruption of blood lipid levels), diabetes, sleep apnea and other respiratory problems. The total cost of obesity in terms of lost productivity and medical bills exceeds $100 billion annually.

Clearly, each of these problems (i.e., obesity and asthma), is significant on its own.  The reality is that these conditions are increasing exponentially and exacerbating one another.  The more obese a person is the more likely he is to experience issues wtih asthma.  This, of course, results in a propensity to avoid strenuous or even moderate exercise in an endeavor to avoid new asthma attacks, leading to the current cyclical consequences.

Thus, the problems that obese asthma patients experience tend to be more severe and these individuals will be hospitalized more frequently.  Studies by leading researchers are beginning to suggest that this situation is due to greater inflammation of air passages and the reduced ability of medications to treat asthma in obese patients.

Breaking the Vicious Cycle

The pattern of increasing obesity and increasing asthma is a difficult one to break.  Obese people who want to lose weight must face the challenge of extra weight pressing on lungs, a condition that is present even when asthma is under control.  This will limit how much air can effectively be brought in during exercise.  Additionally, there is always the reality that an asthma attack may be triggered.

Sleep apnea is another condition that inflames the bronchial tubes which in turn can lead to an asthma attack.  It also prevents the person from getting a good night sleep; an important requirement for the body to heal.  Consequently, there is more fatigue during the day which also leads to a continuation of the sedentary lifestyle.

Solving this problem will not be easy for a person in this situation.  However the key to controlling asthma is to start losing weight.

Are Medications to Blame for Weight Gain?

Some people may think that the steroid medications they use for asthma create weight gain. This would lead one to believe that controlling asthma is part of the obesity problem. A Swedish study of almost 18,000 adults between the ages of 16-60 concluded, however, that there is in fact no strong evidence that shows asthma medications contribute to the development of obesity.  This is true for both men and women.

So then, the first place to start breaking the obesity/asthma cycle is by visiting your medical doctor and by developing a reasonable and healthy dieting plan. A healthy diet should include plenty of essential fatty acids (EFAs) which have natural anti-inflammatory abilities.  This will help combat the bronchial airway inflammation that is exacerbated by obesity.

Psychological Counseling May be in Order as Well.

There will be a lot of emotional issues involved with making all these changes.  This may include the fears associated with the triggering of an asthma attack, body image issues and self esteem, the loss of secondary emotional gains and so forth.  Counseling can also help with many other issues that may be related to overeating.  These may include: marital stress, coping with financial hardships and peer pressure.

Medical doctors and mental health counselors will also be able to provide patients with or point them to the resources to help with smoking cessation.  This is a major irritant to the bronchial tubes and a significant asthma trigger.  Although smoking cessation can create a desire to eat more, there are many techniques that are effective in preventing this from happening (hypnosis is one example).

Of course, exercise is a very critical component of a serious weight loss plan. It will contribute to keeping the weight permanently off.  Exercise helps weight loss by raising the body's metabolic rate so it will burn calories much more effectively. Exercise ultimately leads a person to feeling more energy which will in turn lead to increased activities.  All of this will lead to more restful sleep which means better nighttime recovery for any inflamed or injured body parts.

The end result will be weight loss that contributes to a reduction of asthma symptoms which can lead to more activity and so on.  This will ultimately reverse the negative cycle into a positive one.

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