Over the last few decades, obesity and overweight have become one of the world’s leading public health problems, affecting both adults and children. It is well known that obesity can cause comorbidities like diabetes and heart disease.
But does obesity cause asthma? In this article, we will investigate whether there are links between asthma and obesity and, if so, how they can affect each other and whether losing weight can help asthma.
How Are Obesity And Asthma Related?
Asthma is a chronic airway disease that causes breathlessness, wheezing, and coughing, resulting from airway narrowing, airway hypersensitivity, or increased mucus secretion. On the other hand, obesity is defined as the abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat that increases your risk of health problems. In adults, obesity is benchmarked by a body mass index (BMI) that is greater than or equal to 30.
The American Lung Association (ALA) suggests that obesity can affect asthma in two ways. Firstly, obesity can increase a person’s risk of developing asthma. According to ALA, 11 percent of adults who are obese develop asthma, compared to 9 percent of adults who are not obese.
The Current Asthma Prevalence Report by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicated a similar trend, with persons with obesity having a greater current asthma prevalence than adults without obesity.
These rates are alarming with regard to women, as nearly 15 percent of women who are obese suffer from asthma. Also, obese people with asthma frequently have worsening symptoms and have a harder time controlling their symptoms with medicines.
Furthermore, people with obesity and asthma are most likely to have other medical conditions that might affect their asthma. That is certain diseases or mental conditions like depression or obstructive sleep apnea, which are common among overweight or obese individuals, can worsen the symptoms of asthma.
Is Obesity A Risk Factor For Asthma?
Obesity is related to the development of asthma, worsening symptoms, and poor management of asthma. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found evidence supporting the prevalence of asthma in obese people compared to people of normal weight, who may need more intense treatments as normal steroids are inefficient at treating them. There are several explanations for how obesity contributes to asthma, and they are:
- Constriction of the lungs due to the increased weight on the chest and abdomen.
- Inflammatory substances produced by fat tissues have the potential to impair lung function.
- Breathing difficulties from the development of cardiometabolic diseases like high cholesterol and diabetes.
- Increased vulnerability to allergens, chemicals, and pollution.
Does Asthma Cause Weight Gain?
Exercise might be more challenging for adults and children with asthma, as they often have trouble breathing during physical activity. Experts have indicated that those who eat too much and don’t exercise because of a fear of losing breath will eventually become overweight.
Such individuals can incorporate safe ways to exercise as suggested by the ALA, such as warming up exercises for 5–10 minutes, avoiding physical activities in polluted environments, finding different exercises that do not affect the symptoms, and seeking medical advice to find the best diet and exercise plans. Also, eating a healthy diet and avoiding a lot of fat might be helpful in losing weight.
Can Losing Weight Help Manage Asthma?
As obesity is proven to develop and worsen symptoms of asthma, losing weight can help reduce its incidence and severity. According to research published by the Journal of Asthma in October 2018, it was found that obese patients with asthma who have lost weight show improved breathing function and a better quality of life. Losing weight can also help us maintain our overall health and reduce the risk of other comorbidities.
It is well evident that obesity is associated with asthma. Either it can directly cause or worsen the symptoms of asthma, or it can increase the risk of other comorbid conditions that might affect asthma. Asthma sufferers, both adults and children, may find it more difficult to exercise due to their breathing problems.
However, a balanced diet and exercise are essential to managing their weight. Therefore, it is recommended to see a doctor or physician to guide you through proper diet and exercise routines that can help you lose weight and maintain overall health.