It's that time of year again, when we all seem driven to setting goals and turning over new leaves in the year to come... to finally do what we know we need to do. Unfortunately, all too soon, all our good intentions fall by the wayside and most of us slip right back into the old habits and routines. Still, the possibility is always there to make those changes you want to make in your life.
Here are some worthy New Year's resolutions that can help you take control of your asthma in 2011:
1. Figure out what your allergic triggers are & take 3 steps to minimize your contact with them. Most people who have asthma have the allergic type, and that means that your asthma symptoms are usually triggered by some kind of allergen. For many it's something like dust, pets, or pollen that is the culprit. It's not always easy to avoid such things in your environment, but whatever you can do is sure to have positive effects and minimize your symptoms.
2. Lose weight if you are overweight, or take steps to keep from gaining weight if you are currently in a healthy range. Obesity and asthma are closely linked. When you are overweight, there is less room for your airways to expand too, so being overweight can worsen your asthma symptoms. It can also worsen GERD symptoms. To get (or keep) your weight in a healthy range, it's important to make healthy eating choices. This includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, small amounts of protein, a few servings of whole grains and avoiding excess fats and sweets. Regular, daily exercise (at least 30 minutes a day) is also beneficial. These actions will also strengthen your immune system overall, and keep you healthier.
3. Become an expert in your asthma medication. The good news about asthma is that is almost always treatable. Medication, such as inhaled steroids, is the most effective line of defense. None of us like taking medication every day, but when you take care of your asthma with your prescribed medication, it's much less likely to interfere with living your life. Medicine helps keep asthma under control. Inhalers can be tricky to use correctly, though, so be sure to read the package inserts and also to have either your pharmacist or doctor check your technique for any issues. Make sure you know when your medicine needs to be refilled and get any refills promptly, without missing doses.
4. Anticipate seasonal fluctuations & prepare for them. People with allergic asthma related to pollen may notice that asthma gets worse when pollen levels are high. In early to mid-spring, trees will begin to bloom. If you don't need to take allergy medicine during the cold season, taking it as pollen counts begin to rise can help keep your asthma (and allergies) under control. Allergy medicines often take a week or two to reach full effectiveness, so be sure you start taking them in advance of all the blooming, etc.
5. Update your Asthma Action Plan. Every asthmatic should have a current Asthma Action Plan. This is a 1 or 2 page document that outlines what is "normal" for you, symptoms to watch out for and what kinds of actions to take when symptoms act up or peak flow readings get out of whack. Talk with your doctor about whether your action plan needs updating and then make sure your support people have a copy to refer to.
6. Learn how to use daily peak flow readings to monitor your asthma control. A peak flow meter can detect problems with asthma control long before you actually start to have asthma symptoms. So making peak flow readings a regular part of your daily asthma management routine can help you act on potential problems before they become, well... a problem. If you're not using a peak flow meter now, ask your doctor to prescribe one and then get a lesson in using it. Don't worry; it's not hard... and the effort you put into learning how to use it is well worth it, when you stay healthier year round.
7. Make an appointment with your asthma specialist to review your asthma management plan. Our bodies and health can change over time, so take time each year to review your treatment plan with your doctor. Medication might need to be reduced or increased, new medication added, or perhaps a complementary therapy could be introduced. Team up with your doctor to reach your peak health levels.
8. Adopt overall healthier living habits. Staying as healthy as you can overall will strengthen your ability to weather any asthma "storms" that may come along. So getting plenty of sleep each night (at least 7 hours), learning how to manage your stress effectively, limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking, eating healthy and staying active are all ways to live healthy and be at your best.
9. Open the lines of communication with others. Managing asthma can be thought of as a team affair. Communicate openly and honestly with your doctor, so that you can operate as a well-oiled team in managing your health. Express your needs for support and assistance frankly with family and friends. There is no need to go it alone when you have asthma!
10. Learn all you can about asthma and asthma news. The great thing about asthma being so common is that there is a lot of research being done on what causes asthma and the best ways to treat it. New therapies are emerging every year. Keep yourself informed about what asthma is, the things you can do to keep it under control, etc. Follow websites like this one to learn about new research and newly approved therapies. Then take what you learn to each visit with your doctor and talk about what might apply to your situation.
You don't have to adopt all of these New Years' asthma resolutions as your own. But even if you just pick 4 or 5 of them, you'll be ahead of the game and more likely to stay healthy over the coming year. Happy New Year!
Published On: December 30, 2010