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Quality of life

Asthma cannot be prevented or cured but it can be controlled so that sufferers can lead normal lives.

ASTHMA is a chronic disease or respiratory disorder that affects your airways, the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. Some of the more common things that bring on an asthma attack include exercise, allergens, air pollution, irritants and viral infections. Asthmatics experience a persistent cough, wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty in breathing.

Although asthma affects people of all ages, it most often starts in childhood. More boys suffer from asthma than girls, but in adulthood, more women have asthma than men.

As a child, Sarah (not her real name) had asthma. Her parents would often rush her to the emergency ward when they found her not breathing or struggling to breathe. Coughing, wheezing and chest tightness had become a part of her life. Then the sickly child started mild exercises and at 13, the symptoms miraculously disappeared.

But at 42, just as quickly as the symptoms disappeared in her teens, they reappeared. Sarah became dependent on inhalers again. She attributed it to a hectic lifestyle, poor diet, work stress and lack of exercise.

Determined to have a better quality of life, Sarah sought the help of a personal trainer who put her on the path to wellness. Within a year, all the symptoms had vanished and now at 61, Sarah's asthma is under control and she is a picture of health.

Asthma cannot be prevented or cured but most people with asthma can control it so that they have few and infrequent symptoms and can live normal, active lives. Exercise is mandatory for asthmatics but start off with walking or swimming which can help expand the lungs.

Diet is also an important component for asthmatics, especially if they are on steroids. A healthy diet that includes foods from each food group (carbohydrates, protein and fats) can counter some of the nutritional effects of steroid therapy. Taken over a long period, steroids can increase the risk of osteoporosis, so it is important to take a calcium supplement. To prevent other side effects, limit the intake of salt and foods high in sodium and reduce the amount of cholesterol and fat in your diet.

Asthmatics can still lead a normal life but you need to know what triggers the disease. Then do what you can to avoid or limit contact with these things. The US National Institute of Health provides the following points:

If animal dander is a problem, keep your pet out of the house or at least out of your bedroom.

Do not smoke or allow smoking in your home.

If pollen affects you, stay indoors with the air conditioner on, if possible, when the pollen count is high.

To control dust mites, wash your sheets, blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys once a week in hot water. You can get special dust proof covers for your mattress and pillows.

If you have symptoms when you exercise or do routine physical activities like climbing stairs, work with your doctor to find ways to be active without having asthma symptoms. Physical activity is important.

If you are allergic to sulfites, avoid foods (like dried fruit) or beverages (like wine) that contain them.


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