You’re wise to ponder the question, especially because the number of asthma sufferers in America continues to grow at a steady pace.
In fact, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, about 1 in 12 adults deal with asthma symptoms.1 More than half of these people have suffered an asthma attack, meaning that they have dealt with wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing as their airways narrowed due to inflammation.
While there is no cure for asthma, you can learn to control the symptoms as long as you are aware of asthma risk factors. Let’s explore them.
Asthma Gender Gaps
Asthma is more prevalent in children than adults. One in ten children suffers from asthma, with boys more likely to have it than girls.
Interestingly, gender influences change over time. While the smaller airways of young boys seem to make them more prone to asthma, the ratio of asthma between males and females evens out at about age twenty. Then, at middle age, or around age 40, women are more likely to suffer from asthma than men.
It’s ‘All in the Family’
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if your mother or father suffers from asthma, you’re three to six times more likely to develop asthma. Put another way, about three-fifths of all asthma cases are hereditary.13
Allergies and Asthma: A Double Whammy
As if dealing with allergies isn’t enough! Studies show that if you have allergies, you’re more likely to get asthma. Asthma risk factors include allergic hypersensitivities such as hay fever, eczema, allergic conjunctivitis, dust, pet dander, fungi, mold and more.
The Peril of Pollutants
Both indoor pollutants and outdoor pollutants include a mixed bag between what you can control and conditions that are unavoidable.
For example, you can control cigarette smoke and fumes from household cleaners and paints. But cold air, which causes the airways to congest and produce more mucus, is not as easy to avoid. The same goes for high humidity in a warmer climate.
Even more vexing is the link between gas stoves and asthma sufferers. Studies have shown a prevalence of asthma attacks among people who cook with gas stoves, which emit nitrogen dioxide. And while alternatives are available, more than half of American households are equipped with gas stoves. Questions still remain about the link between the two, but an undeniable fact is that those with gas stoves should make certain that a proper ventilation system is in order.
The Scale May Tell The Tale
You can carry around an extra five or 10 pounds of weight without putting your health at risk. However, if you lug around an extra 20 pounds or more, you significantly raise your chances of developing asthma. Good health, diet and exercise are certainly on the top of the list as far as ways to reduce your asthma symptoms.
Keep in mind that asthma symptoms may range from minor to severe. They might occur only at certain times, such as when it’s cold outdoors or after strenuous exercise. However, don’t let your calm, rational side fail you as you assess these asthma risk factors. If you think you may have asthma or allergies, talking to a doctor is the best thing to do. And IMMEDIATELY consult a physician if you are troubled by shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing or wheezing. (If you’re unfamiliar with this sensation, wheezing often hurts and has a whistling sound when you exhale.)
Take comfort in knowing that a physician can come up with a treatment plan to help keep asthma under control.
1“Asthma Statistics,” American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/asthma-statistics.aspx.
2“Asthma Risk Factors,” WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/asthma-risk-factors.