Alright Asthmatics! Here's Your Incentive to Get in Shape This Year

by John Bottrell Health Professional

Happy New Year, fellow asthmatics.
If you're like me you focus on getting in better shape all year, but continue to fail.
I'm going to provide you with some added incentives to never quit trying to get into shape.

It's a simple fact that
many of us tend to, well, gain a little weight as we
age. It's normal actually. Yet, if you have asthma like me, you need to be a little more careful, because obesity and asthma do not bode well together.
It's a fact.

Quite often I'm asked this question: "Am I short-of-breath because I have asthma or because I'm overweight?" To be honest, the answer might be both.

I actually asked myself that question once, and I got my answer after I started doing the Body-for-Life Program and lost 40 pounds. Not only was I no longer winded, I was able to cut way back on my rescue inhaler usage. It was awesome.

For one thing, if you are overweight your heart is already working extra hard to pump blood through all your extra weight. So even minimal exertion may make you winded even if you don't have asthma.

Plus a full stomach, and stomach fat, may push up on your diaphragm, which may give your lungs less room to expand, which may also make you feel winded.

Eating McDonalds and other Fatty foods is fun and quite convenient, yet many studies show fatty foods may cause asthma.

A study completed by the Center for Disease Control showed that obese adults were 66% more likely than normal weight adults to have asthma. Experts at the University of South California did a study that showed obese children were 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with new onset asthma.

Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006 (as you can see here) showed that "Obese children were about 26 percent more likely to have allergies than children of normal weight".

According to researchers from Kaiser Permanente, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, people with asthma are five times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma, have a lower quality of life, and have worse asthma control as compared to those with asthma at a normal weight.

Likewise, according to a study released in 2007 by researchers at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, obese asthmatics are more likely to have persistent or severe asthma.

This 2005 study by experts at the Harvard School of Public Health notes that 75% of emergency room visits are among asthmatics that are obese.

The study
also notes
that many people are obese before they become asthmatics. There are two theories why obesity may lead to asthma:

  • Shallow breathing

  • Hormones released from fat tissue

Breaths are shallower than normal due to fat tissue making less room for the lungs to expand.
Full stomachs also puts added pressure on the diaghragm, which further restricts the ability of the lungs to expand.

This shallow breathing increases the probability inflammation will exist in the air passages of the lungs, and this causes the airways to narrow.

Inflammation in of air passages is also believed to be caused by hormones, such
as leptin, released from fat tissue.

Leptin is present in all asthmatics, but it is elevated in the obese.

Likewise, people that are obese are less likely to have a hormone called adiponectin, which is an anti-inflammatory hormone.

Researchers at Kings College in London, according to this BBC News article, discovered that Th2 cells responsible for causing inflammation in the lungs in asthma also produce a protein called PMCH which is known to increase appetite.

A recent study performed at York University in Toronto shows that asthmatics who exercise "might" have better asthma control. Basically, this pretty much proves what we already know, although it's neat to have a little proof.

However, it must also be noted that inactivity due to asthma itself may lead to weight gain. This is why it is especially important to maintain good asthma control so you don't have an excuse to miss out on exercise.

Another study showed that while obesity may not worsen asthma, it may make asthma medicine work less well. Experts here recommend that if you're overweight you may need a higher dose of controller meds as compared to those of normal weight.

Still, it should also be noted that many asthmatics are not overweight. In fact, many children are skinny as I was as a child.

Regardless, getting in shape and staying in shape is hard. Yet because asthma and being out of shape do not bode well together, you must never quit trying.
More so than people with normal lungs, we asthmatics have an even greater incentive to get in shape this year.

So come on and join me. I'm doing the Body-For-Life Program because it works for me. I challenge you to find a diet and exercise program that works for you, and then stick with it for the full year.

John Bottrell
Meet Our Writer
John Bottrell

John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).