Obesity and asthma are both on the rise in the United States. An estimated 14 million Americans, including 5 million children, suffer from asthma.  According to the National Institutes of Health, one in three Americans is obese. Obesity is second only to smoking as a risk factor for disease. Obesity may increase the risk of asthma.
Until now, it was commonly assumed that people with asthma may become overweight because their breathing problems limit their activity. But with proper treatment and close supervision of an Allergist, people with asthma should not have activity limitations. In a study presented at the American Lung Association International Conference it was revealed that those who were most obese were three times as likely to develop asthma as those who were the least overweight. It is thought that being overweight somehow compresses the airways, making them smaller and, therefore, more reactive to cold or other asthma triggers.

Weight loss should be added to the management strategies for asthma. In obese patients with asthma, weight reduction improves health status and lung function. Supervised weight loss in asthma patients not only reduces symptoms, but it may also lower the need for medications. Weight loss has been shown to improve lung function in the general population of obese persons, and there have been anecdotal reports of symptom improvement among obese asthma patients who lost weight. Another benefit of weight loss was an overall improvement in the patients' perception of their health status. Weight loss lowers the exercise load, which may alleviate asthma symptoms during exertion. A reduction in the amount of abdominal fat may decrease the risk of "heartburn", which can worsen asthma symptoms. The psychological benefit of weight loss may also have a positive effect on asthma symptoms.

Stress has been known to precipitate asthma attacks in children - and it appears that happy feelings can have the reverse effect. They viewed a movie and the researchers monitored their heart and respiratory rates and blood oxygen saturation levels. During the sad part, the children’s oxygen saturation dropped compared to levels during the opening credits, which had little emotional significance. During the happy part of the film, oxygen saturation rose, signifying much more open airways. 

If you or your child has experienced any of these symptoms you should consider an evaluation by an Allergist.

If you have any further questions please contact our hotline:

Ellen Epstein, M.D.
Adult and Pediatric Allergy
165 N. Village Ave.-Suite 141
Rockville Centre, NY 11570

Dr. Epstein is a Board Certified Allergist affiliated with Long Island Jewish Medical Center, South Nassau Communities Hospital and Franklin Hospital Medical Center


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