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Asthma is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning. The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are a combination of genetic predisposition with environmental exposure to inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways. Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood.
People who have asthma have inflamed airways. This makes them swollen and very sensitive. They tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances. When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten. This narrows the airways, causing less air to flow into the lungs. The swelling also can worsen, making the airways even narrower. Cells in the airways might make more mucus than usual. Mucus is a sticky, thick liquid that can further narrow the airways.
Figure A shows the location of the lungs and airways in the body. Figure B shows a cross-section of a normal airway. Figure C shows a cross-section of an airway during asthma symptoms.
Common signs and symptoms of asthma include: 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.
Coughing: Coughing from asthma often is worse at night or early in the morning, making it hard to sleep.
Wheezing: Wheezing is a whistling or squeaky sound that occurs when you breathe.
Chest tightness: This may feel like something is squeezing or sitting on your chest.
Shortness of breath: Some people who have asthma say they can't catch their breath or they feel out of breath. You may feel like you can't get air out of your lungs.
Recurrent asthma symptoms frequently cause sleeplessness, daytime fatigue, reduced activity levels and school and work absenteeism. Asthma has a relatively low fatality rate compared to other chronic diseases.
Many things can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms. Your doctor will help you find out which things (called triggers) may cause your asthma to flare up if you come in contact with them. Triggers can include:
o Allergens from dust, animal fur, cockroaches, mold, and pollens from trees, grasses, and flowers
o Irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, chemicals or dust in the workplace, compounds in home doctor products, and sprays (such as hairspray)
o Medicines such as aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (pain killers) and nonselective beta-blockers
o Sulfites in foods and drinks
o Viral upper respiratory infections, such as colds
o Physical activity, including exercise
Quit Smoking- To help you quit, there are many online resources and several new aids available from your doctor or health care providers.
It is also a good idea to get a flu shot every year, since the flu can cause serious problems for people with Asthma.
Take Precautions Against the H1N1 Flu
Visit Your Doctor or Health Care Provider on a Regular Basis to avoid complications and hospitalization.
Reduce stress -try to avoid things that cause you stress.
You can also try pranayam and yoga under guidance to improve lung function.
The goal of asthma treatment is to control the disease. Good asthma control will:
Prevent chronic and troublesome symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath
Reduce your need for quick-relief medicines (see below)
Help you maintain good lung function
Let you maintain your normal activity level and sleep through the night
Prevent asthma attacks that could result in an emergency room visit or hospital stay
Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA): If you have asthma, the first noticeable symptoms of ABPA are usually progressive worsening of your asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD):Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a group of lung diseases (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis) that block airflow in the lungs. This makes it increasingly difficult to breathe. Many of the symptoms of COPD are similar to asthma symptoms.
Eosinophilic Esophagitis and Allergies:The majority of patients with EoE are atopic. An atopic person is someone who has a family history of allergies or asthma and symptoms of one or more allergic disorders. These include asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis and food allergy
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Asthma flare-ups can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, allowing stomach contents to flow back, or reflux, into the esophagus.
See your doctor or health care provider regularly even if you are feeling fine. Partner with your doctor to develop an asthma action plan. This plan will help you know when and how to take your medicines. The plan also will help you identify your asthma triggers and manage your disease if asthma symptoms worsen. Make a list of your breathing symptoms and think about any activities that you can no longer do because of shortness of breath. Be sure to bring a list of all the medicines you are taking to each office visit.
Your asthma might be getting worse if:
Your symptoms start to occur more often, are more severe, or bother you at night and cause you to lose sleep.
You're limiting your normal activities and missing school or work because of your asthma.
Your peak flow number is low compared to your personal best or varies a lot from day to day.
Your asthma medicines don't seem to work well anymore.
You have to use your quick-relief inhaler more often. If you're using quick-relief medicine more than 2 days a week, your asthma isn't well controlled.
You have to go to the emergency room or doctor because of an asthma attack.
If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. He or she might need to change your medicines or take other steps to control your asthma.
Partner with your health care team and take an active role in your care. This can help you better control your asthma so it doesn't interfere with your activities and disrupt your life.
The most damaging consequence of lung disease and its sensation of breathlessness is the development of an inactive lifestyle. For many patients, activities of daily living, like bathing and dressing, can create overwhelming fatigue. Air hunger can create panic attacks, and produce negative psychological effects. People with chronic respiratory problems sometimes limit their physical activities in an attempt to avoid shortness of breath.
The lack of exercise works against you; inactivity weakens your muscles and they become less efficient. Regular exercise strengthens your muscles and makes them more resistant to fatigue.
Eat to build immunity and strength:
A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. A healthy diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar. Eating smaller, more frequent meals may prevent stomach fullness that can make it harder to breathe.
Be active and involved- work and play!
It is important that you don't let asthma affect your movement and routine. Seek support to carry on your work, social engagements and personal commitments. This will keep you emotionally healthy and also keep asthma symptoms at bay.
Stop Tobacco Use:
Avoiding environmental irritants, like cigarette smoke, is a good way to prevent further damage to your lungs. If you are still smoking, the most important thing you can do is to stop
Get Plenty of Rest. Getting at least eight hours of quality rest every night can boost your immune system and sense of well-being
Pranayam and Yoga:
These are excellent techniques easy to do and improve lung function significantly. They will also keep you physically fit and mentally agile. Check out this link for yoga exercises for asthma:
Join a Support Group or take up a hobby:
Just knowing that there is someone out there that knows how you feel is comforting. Share ideas, share fears, and share joys.
Watch your weight in both
directions. It is important for you to consume enough calories to produce
energy in order to prevent wasting or weakening of the diaphragm and other
pulmonary muscles. At the same time it is important to be fit to breathe easier.
The good news is that most people with asthma do not have to follow a special
Research has shown that people who
ate the most fruit and vegetables had the healthiest lung function. Vitamin C
and E are also believed to help reduce the severity of the inflammatory
response in the lungs of people with asthma. A diet that includes a high level
of nutrients can also boost the immune system and help ward off colds and flu -
both common asthma triggers.
Base your healthy eating plan around
a variety of foods, including fresh fruit and vegetables, grains and cereals.
It is recommended that you eat five portions of fruit or vegetables every day
and drink plenty of water.
Low-fat protein foods such as lean cuts of meat,
poultry, and fish - particularly oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and
Whole grain foods such as whole grain bread, bran,
brown rice, and oats. These foods are also high in fiber, which helps improve
the function of the digestive system.
Fresh fruits and vegetables. They contain essential
vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which will help to keep your body healthy
and fight infections.
Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Adequate
hydration keeps mucus thin and makes it easier to cough up.
Losing weight can help in managing asthma, and combined
with a more active lifestyle, can also help to improve lung function.
Certain foods can cause problems
such as gas and bloating, contain too much fat, or are low in nutritional
value. Foods to avoid include: Salt, Fried foods, and caffeine (coffee)
In some cases, certain foods
including cow's milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, yeast products, nuts, and some
food colorings and preservatives, can make symptoms worse.
Too much salt causes water
retention, which may affect your ability to breathe. Be sure to check the
labels of the foods you buy and avoid any containing more than 300 mg of sodium
People with asthma are also
recommended to avoid products with artificial colours(see food labels) as they may trigger
symptoms. If you think you have a food allergy, contact your doctor or nurse
for further advice.
Sample Diet Plan (patient with asthma)
Do not add SALT while cooking or as
Life Long Instructions
Quit smoking and cut down on alcohol.
Limiting sugar, caffeine, and alcohol can promote
health and reduce stress.
Exercise both your arms and legs. You might use a treadmill,
stationary bike, or weights to do your exercises.
If you can't handle long exercise sessions, your plan
may involve several short sessions with rest breaks in between. While you
exercise, your team may check your blood oxygen levels with a device
that's attached to your finger.
One way to help prevent symptoms like shortness of
breath is to find easier ways to do daily tasks. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR INHALER IN HAND WHILE DOING EXERCISE AND TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TRYING OUT NEW EXERCISES.
These tips include ways to avoid reaching, lifting, and
bending. Such movements use energy and tighten your abdominal muscles,
making it harder for you to breathe.
Stress also can use up energy and make you short of
DRINK PLENTY OF WATER WHILE DOING EXERCISES.
Pursed-lip breathing decreases how often you take
breaths and keeps your airways open longer. This allows more air to flow
in and out of your lungs so you can be more physically active.
To do pursed-lip breathing, you breathe in through your
nostrils. Then you slowly breathe out through slightly pursed lips, as if
you're blowing out a candle. You exhale two to three times longer than you
inhale. Some people find it helpful to count to two while inhaling and to
four or six while exhaling.
Always breathe slowly to save your
breath. Inhale through your nose, keeping
your mouth closed. Exhale through pursed lips.Include the following in your
Stretching:It helps prepare the muscles for activity and helps prevent
injury and muscle strain. Regular stretching also increases your range of
motion and flexibility.
Cardiovascular or aerobic:This type of exercise strengthens the heart and lungs, and
improves the body's ability to use oxygen. Aerobic exercises include walking,
jogging, jumping rope, bicycling (stationary or outdoor), cross-country skiing,
skating, rowing, and low-impact aerobics or water aerobics.
Strengthening:Strengthening exercises for the upper body are especially,
as they help increase the strength of your respiratory muscles.