More and more frequently, older adults are having to deal with asthma, whether it is hanging on since their youth, reactivated recently or it's just been diagnosed for the very first time during the senior years.
In two previous posts, I addressed the difficulty in diagnosing asthma in older adults and the importance of your asthma management plan. In this post, we'll talk about general strategies to help older adults stay healthy in the face of chronic asthma.
Even if you exert your best efforts in taking your asthma medicine and avoiding your asthma triggers, good health may still elude you at times. There can be many reasons for this:
- Other health conditions and seasonal infections may get in the way.
- You might be exposed to new triggers that are not part of your everyday environment.
- Your health needs may change over time as you get older.
That's why it's good to have a plan for staying healthy.
Start with an Asthma Action Plan
Everyone who has asthma, even adults, should have a written Asthma Action Plan. An action plan is a document that you develop with your doctor's help that will guide you (and your familly members, if needed) in how to respond when asthma symptoms begin to flare.
An action plan lists danger signs, which medications to take and when, and when to seek emergency care. It can take the guesswork out of asthma emergencies, so that you get help quickly when needed, to avoid serious complications.
Know Your Numbers
People with asthma often use a handheld device called a peak flow meter to track asthma control. You blow out through the device and it measures how well your airways are working, how open they are, etc.
Your doctor can work with you to establish your baseline "healthy" numbers and when to be concerned about deviations. The Asthma Action Plan is often tied to peak flow levels.
Often there will be changes in peak flow numbers that indicate asthma control is slipping, long before you have any noticeable symptoms. Picking up on these changes early on can help you prevent asthma attacks.
Get Your Shots!
People who have asthma are strongly recommended to get an annual seasonal flu shot, as well as periodic pneumonia vaccines. This post explains the vaccine recommendations in greater detail.
Older adults are generally more susceptible to infection, so keeping up with your shots is even more important than it is in younger people with asthma. The only exception is the H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine, which is NOT recommended for older adults.
Live Healthy, Live Strong
Maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle is another worthy effort. The healthier you are overall, the better you'll be able to stay on top of asthma control. Some of the ways to live healthy and strong includer the following:
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating healthy means eating small portions of a balance of food types. Limit fat, sugar, salt and processed foods. Drink lots of fluids, 8 to 10 glasses a day, preferably fresh water.
- Get plenty of sleep. Getting enough sleep will reduce your stress, help with weight control and enable your body to replenish its resources each night. Most experts recommend 7 to 8 hours a night, minimum. You may also need an additional nap during the day, if you find yourself tiring more easily.
- Exercise every day. Be as active as you can. Get some form of exercise every day for about a half hour. This can be as simple as walking, but more strenuous forms of exercise are fine too, as long as you can tolerate it.
- Manage your stress. Some stress is part of everyday life, but when stress starts to weigh you down or wear you out, it's out of control and change is needed. Take frequent breaks, laugh often, interact with others, and do things that make you happy, such as listening to music, reading, taking a hot bath, meditating or whatever works for you.
- Avoid recreational drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. One of the worst things someone with asthma can do is smoke. If you are a smoker, quit. If you need help with quitting, then get it. You'll never get control over asthma if you keep smoking! It's also a good idea to limit your alcohol intake. No more than 1 serving a day is probably enough to stay healthy.
Follow the steps in this post to stay healthy and asthma management should be a snap!