Link between stress and asthma becoming a subject of study
In America, the Center for Disease Control studies emotional and physical afflictions within the context of environment, social and economic factor, diet, and many other factors in order to help both the medical field and the people it serves make better health decisions.
Among thousands of subjects “trending” from the CDC is the meme that some forms of asthma may be brought on, or worsened, by stress.
It makes some baseline sense. People who get exercise-induced asthma know that placing a workload on their lungs can result in sudden constriction of the airways, also known as asthma, which can be life-threatening if not treated.
Similarly, one of the known symptoms of an anxiety attack is shortness of breath and even fainting. The extreme agitation brought on by fear or anxiety can produce many such symptoms, all of which release “fight or flight” chemicals in the body that if unregulated can lead to stress related illness or even death. Yes, you literally can be frightened to death if your body is susceptible to certain kinds of response to high degrees of stress.
That brings us back to the Center for Disease Control and the growing recognition that the rate of asthma among Americans has been growing at rapid rates over the last 10 years. Some of the statistics are startling:
• Asthma accounts for one-quarter of all emergency room visits in the U.S. each year, with 1.75 million emergency room visits.
• Each year, asthma accounts for more than 10 million outpatient visits and 479,000 hospitalizations.
• The average length of stay (LOS) for asthma hospitalizations is 4.3 days.
• Nearly half (44%) of all asthma hospitalizations are for children.
• Asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization children.
• Asthma is the #1 chronic cause of school absenteeism among children each year accounting for more than 13 million total missed days of school.
• Asthma accounts for more than 10 million total missed days of work for adults each year.
• African Americans are three times more likely to be hospitalized from asthma.
The difficult image in the mirror of these statistics is that asthma also is known to kill if not treated in time. These statistics from the CDC document the frightening truth:
• Each day 9 Americans die from asthma. There are more than 3,300 deaths due to asthma each year, many of which are avoidable with proper treatment and care. In addition, asthma is indicated as “contributing factor” for nearly 7,000 other deaths each year.
• Since 1980 asthma death rates overall have increased more than 50% among all genders, age groups and ethnic groups. The death rate for children under 19 years old has increased by nearly 80% percent since 1980.
• More females die of asthma than males, and women account for nearly 65% of asthma deaths overall.
• African Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma. African American Women have the highest asthma mortality rate of all groups, more than 2.5 times higher than Caucasian women.
These rates of treatment and mortality certainly should gain attention, raising the question: Why is asthma becoming so prevalent as a health issue?
Reducing stress to control asthma risk
Apparently there is an inherent risk from stress in people who already have asthma. Stress can literally become an asthma trigger, releasing chemicals into the body that cause constriction of the airways leading to asthma. And of course the stress of dealing with asthma is itself a form of stress. So it has “double-whammy” effect on those already dealing with asthma day to day.
One of the recommended strategies to reduce risk of stress-induced asthma is, therefore, to reduce stress wherever possible in life. Of course the CDC statistics point out that some population segments that are at greatest risk for allergies also happen to be those at risk for economic of social stresses.
The practical response is to learn your body’s responses to stress and adapt practical methods of controlling your thoughts, taking an anti-anxiety medicine if necessary, or organizing your life to recruit support where necessary so that stress does not fall all on you.
Taking control of your asthma
All wise things to do, but people with asthma cannot take the risk that self-management alone will prevent a compromising asthma attack. That is why it is wise to educate yourself on asthma prevention and treatment tools. Here is a 5-step education protocol for reducing and treating asthma:
1. Asthma control devices can help you respond to an asthma attack correctly, and in time.
2. Monitor your normal breathing function by using a peak flow meter to help you measure your lung and breathing capacity.
3. Learn how nebulizers work and which product is right for your asthma condition.
4. Personalize your treatment strategy with nebulizer accessories adapted to your needs and circumstances.
5. Learn to communicate. When faced with onset of an asthma attack, it is important that you recognize the symptoms and try to communicate your needs to those around you. That includes communicating in advance of any problems you might have, so that your coworkers or family members understand your needs, your reactions and your tools for treating asthma, especially in the event of emergency.