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Are Overweight or Obese People More Prone to Asthma?

Obesity increases the risks of asthma 

It has already been established that obesity dramatically increases the risk of having asthma. In fact, obese individuals are five times more likely to suffer severe asthma attacks than those who have asthma and are of normal weight. Obesity is not just associated with inflammation anymore. In fact, new research suggests that being overweight becomes an actual inflammatory condition. Since asthma is an inflammatory condition as well, the two conditions work together in synergy to create more inflammation in the body, making overweight individuals more likely to have respiratory issues.

Linking asthma and obesity 

In recent studies, these two conditions are clearly linked especially with overweight children being twice as likely to develop asthma with more severe symptoms. Evidence-based research suggests that whereas weight gain increases the risk of asthma, weight loss improves the course of the illness. Additionally, research shows that obesity is capable of reducing pulmonary compliance, lung volumes, and the diameter of peripheral respiratory airways as well as affecting the volume of blood in the lungs and the ventilation-perfusion relationship.

Asthma treatment is not "one size fits all"

Another study of more than 1,000 people found that obese adults with asthma are almost five times more likely than non-obese asthmatics to be hospitalized. Furthermore, obese asthmatics need more intensive treatments when they are hospitalized. Inhaled steroids are less effective in controlling the attacks of obese asthmatics than controlling the attacks of non-obese asthmatics. Clinicians caring for obese asthmatics need to be aware that there are different types of asthma, and treatment is not "one size fits all." We now understand that there are many asthma phenotypes, the results of genes and the environment. Studies have found unique subgroups of asthmatics in which their condition may be more directly related to their obesity. These patients tend to be older, female, and do not respond as well to steroids. Obese people tend to have under-expanded lungs, and they take smaller breaths because their lung airways are more narrow. These narrow airways are more prone to irritation.

How obesity affects quality of life

In addition to being potentially hospitalized for their asthmatic condition, obese asthmatics have also been found to experience a poorer quality of life in general. Aside from asthma, sleep apnea is another condition that leads to difficulty breathing and decreased levels of oxygen during the night. Sleep apnea is another condition common among obese people and is associated with asthma-like symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath. Further, people who are obese are at increased risk of developing acid reflux. Having both acid reflux and asthma can by very risky, because reflux increases acid production and acid production is toxic to the respiratory system. Therefore, it is likely for an obese person with asthma and acid reflux to experience asthma attacks.

Weight loss as treatment for overweight asthmatics 

Weight loss should definitely be considered in any asthma treatment plan for someone who is at an unhealthy weight. By sharing and accepting the challenge of losing weight and using objective data such as pulmonary function testing to guide care, clinicians can help improve their asthmatic patients' quality of life. Obese asthmatic patients need help understanding what is causing their shortness of breath. The need to learn their options and the best ways to feel better, so they can learn to live a better quality of life and prevent future inflammation of the lungs. Conclusively, there are a number of reasons as to why obesity it is a significant risk factor in asthma.