I Can't Breathe
|Photo by Dreamstime
We rarely think twice about breathing. We breathe in. We breathe out. Air rushes into our lungs and a quick exchange takes place; oxygen in and nitrogen out. Because this element transaction takes place mindlessly, we live with little concern about breathing but this is not true for everyone. Some folks breathe in and substances like smoke, perfume or dust triggers air passageways to narrow or become blocked. This is called asthma and as of 2009, over 25 million people or 1 in 12 people living in the United States suffer from this breathing disorder. Unfortunately, the numbers are increasing and so are the health care costs.1
We do not understand why we experience asthma and researchers are trying to figure out why. They suspect that viruses and indoor air quality may contribute to the increase. In 2010, the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Journal
published a paper suggesting that low vitamin D levels may also contribute to asthma increase. Vitamin D might block a cascade of proteins that trigger inflammation in the lungs. This vitamin may also increase production of anti-inflammatory proteins. Both of these actions can potentially lower asthma episodes. Some researchers suggest that more studies are needed to confirm these actions while others suggest that we should check and maintain our vitamin D levels.2
What else can be done to help keep this genetic disease under control?
Check with the doctor and establish a regimen to help prevent attacks. If medication is prescribed, learn when and how to use the medication appropriately. If a child has asthma, make sure the school nurse and teacher understand the condition and treatment plan.
Provide an environment with minimal triggers. Dog and cat dander, tobacco smoke, mold, dust, old air filters should be avoided as best as possible. Vacuum and change air and heating filters regularly; this can help keep the air clean.
Minimize exposure to substances such as cleaners, paints and varnishes because fumes from these substances can trigger asthma attacks.
If exercising outdoors, avoid days when there is pollen in the air. During the winter when the air is cold and dry breath through a scarf or mask so that the cold does not trigger an attack.
Presently, there is no cure and the best way to control asthma is to prevent triggers. Understanding the disease and having a treatment plan in place is the best way to live healthy!