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Asthma 101: The Basics

By Kate Gardner 

According to the American Lung Association, more than 25 million Americans have asthma. Odds are you know someone who has asthma, or you may have it yourself. If you're new to asthma and aren't sure what it is, read on for a quick lesson!  

Asthma

Asthma is a lung disease that can make it hard to breathe. There are many different kinds of asthma, defined largely by what triggers your reaction and when you start experiencing symptoms. In all types of asthma, the lining of your airways is hypersensitive. When you're exposed to a trigger, your airways swell up and become smaller, making it harder to breathe. Other symptoms include tightness in the chest and coughing. There is no cure and the disease is considered chronic, meaning people will typically deal with it the rest of their lives. 

Causes

No one knows why some people develop asthma, though it seems to be a mixture of heredity and environment. Asthma often runs in families, but infections and exposure to irritants also seem to make people more likely to have asthma. There are many different triggers (things that can set off an asthma attack) including: 

  • Exercise
  • Exposure to allergens
  • Exposure to irritants
  • Stress
  • Respiratory infections 

Treatments

Though there is no cure for asthma, there are a number of treatments that can help people live normal lives. Treatment has multiple goals, including helping people have fewer asthma attacks and stopping attacks once they happen. 

  • Fast-acting - Also known as rescue inhalers, these inhaled medications are meant to stop an asthma attack once it has started. Fast-acting medications are only taken when you're having an attack.  

  • Long-acting - These medications are taken daily and are meant to help keep you from having asthma-related symptoms. 

  • Allergy medications - If allergies trigger your asthma, allergy medications can help cut down on symptoms. 

Life With Asthma

For people living with asthma, self-care and support are critical. The American Lung Association makes some recommendations for you to live a full life with asthma. 

  • Medications - Know your medications and be sure to take them as directed. If you find you're using your rescue inhaler more often, it may be time to talk to your doctor about adjusting your long-acting medications.

  • Environment - You can make changes in your home environment to reduce your asthma attacks by eliminating allergy-related triggers and irritants. 

  • Exercise - Even though it can be a trigger for some, it is still important to exercise. Exercise can build your cardiovascular health and make your lungs stronger. 

If you're dealing with asthma, take heart. It is possible to live an active life. If you're struggling to manage your symptoms, talk with your healthcare provider for different treatment options.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractor in Flower Mound, Tex. 

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