The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that 20 million people in the US currently have asthma.
When you have asthma, two main things are happening in your lungs: the muscles around the airways are constricted and inflamed. The constriction and inflammation narrows your airways, which cause symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. There is increasing evidence that, if left untreated, asthma may cause a long-term decline in lung function. The underlying parts of the disease, especially the inflammation, can be there, even in the absence of symptoms. It is important, therefore, to prevent symptoms from occurring in the first place, rather than waiting until symptoms become serious. For many patients, optimal therapy requires treating both main components of asthma.
What is asthma?
There is really no known cause of asthma. A lot of effort has been put forth to try and understand if there is a genetic basis to this disease. It definitely does run in some families, but currently, there is no consistent genetic profile in people who have it versus those who don’t. We are all exposed to lots of the same things and yet, not all of us have problems. A leading theory is that it is a combination of inherited risks for the disease, as well as interaction with allergens in our environment, that develop into the disease.
There are triggers that most people are aware of, especially if they have any history of allergies. These triggers include hay fever, ragweed, cut grass, and many other things that contain pollen. Triggers that people may not be as aware of are weather conditions such as high humidity, high temperatures, or very cold temperatures. All of these can be triggers for people with asthma. Infections such as the common cold and the flu can also trigger asthma symptoms. And then, finally, there is exercise, which can trigger asthma.
You can minimize some triggers by reducing the dust in your home. You should change sheets and bed linens weekly. Some air filters can be a big help in cutting down on dust in the home. In general, it’s important to avoid exposure to strong fumes, cigarette smoke, and so forth. These can be irritants for people with asthma. The one that’s often most difficult for patients with asthma is having in their home a beloved pet that may be triggering their asthma symptoms. The most effective way to eliminate this trigger is to not have the pet at all. Short of that, keeping your pet out of your bedroom or keeping it outside of the house can help cut down on some of the problems associated with pets.
There is no specific diet that will help improve asthma. It’s important to eat a well-balanced diet and make sure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals that anyone would need, as well as plenty of rest. That makes sense for everybody, including someone who has asthma.