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Decoding the link between obesity and asthma

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), asthma is a chronic disease characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, which vary in severity and frequency from person to person. Symptoms may occur several times in a day or week in affected individuals, and for some people become worse during physical activity or at night. The WHO estimates that globally, 235 million people suffer from asthma. Asthma is under-diagnosed and under-treated, creating a substantial burden to individuals and families and possibly restricting individuals’ activities for a lifetime. Hence, one should not ignore symptoms like shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, coughing or wheezing, a whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling (wheezing is a common sign of asthma in children), and coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or the flu. So, take a note of it and manage asthma at the right time. Furthermore, do you know that obesity can put you at the risk of asthma? Tons of research suggests that obesity is tied to asthma.

Asthma is a chronic disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. The prevalence of asthma is around 300 million and is expected to increase another 100 million by 2025. Obesity, on the other hand, tends to affect a large number of individuals. According to the WHO, in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese. 39 per cent of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13 per cent were obese. 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2016. Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016. Surely, these figures are bothersome. Moreover, obesity can not only shoot your blood pressure, cause breathlessness, but it can lead to asthma too. Various studies found that obesity is an important risk factor in the development of asthma.

By Dr Samir Garde, Chest Physician at Global Hospital Parel , Mumbai, “The prevalence of asthma is higher in obese than in lean adults and obesity increases the incidence of asthma by 2.0- and 2.3-fold in children and adults, respectively. Another study published in the Canadian Respiratory Journal revealed that asthma medication use and self-reported asthma were more prevalent in the obese population, particularly in women. Also, obesity has been identified as a major risk factor for childhood asthma and has been linked to lower treatment response and quality of life in this patient group. The association between obesity and asthma is connected with increased asthma severity, poorer asthma control, and increased asthma exacerbation risk. In addition, obesity makes asthma difficult to diagnose. In comparison to children with normal weight, the risk of asthma in overweight or obese children is higher.”

The reason- certainly extra weight around the chest and abdomen may constrict the lungs and make it more difficult to breathe. Fat tissue produces inflammatory substances that might affect the lungs and a number of studies have suggested that these substances may affect asthma. Obese patients often use more medications, suffer worse symptoms and are less able to control their asthma than patients in a healthy weight range. People with asthma and a BMI over 30 do not respond in the same way to medications as people with a lower BMI do.

“Extra weight increases the risk of having asthma and having more severe, difficult to control asthma. The solution is to eat a healthy diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding a lot of fat in your diet. You should consult your expert regarding the foods which you should opt for. Also, eating food high in fat worsens airway inflammation in people with asthma. So, avoid doing so. To grill your fat, you must stay physically active and do any activities of your choice like walking, running and swimming, to stay in shape. Moreover, do not self-medicate or use any over-the-counter products.” Concluded Dr Garde.

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