Living with Asthma

Apr 28, 2016

Living with Asthma

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Although not a life-threatening condition, asthma can decidedly hinder a person’s quality of life without proper management of symptoms and asthma attacks. Asthma symptoms tend to be sporadic and occur at any time. Managing asthma symptoms can be tricky depending on a number of factors including the environment and aging. Creating daily methods to manage triggers and health can increase the number of days living without asthma symptoms.

Tracking Your Asthma

As people age, asthma can change over time. Symptoms have a tendency to transform into other physical indicators not previously experienced. Commonly, asthma symptoms can become more severe and occur more often as people age. Typical changes in asthma symptoms can include:

  • Less asthma symptoms
  • New asthma symptoms
  • Specific symptoms are more aggressive
  • Medications are not as effective
  • Side effects of asthma medication are more prominent
  • New Triggers

With changes in your asthma come changes in your management plan and lifestyle. To best adapt your asthma management regimes effectively, begin a symptom diary. Recording in detail daily experiences with your asthma allows you to track the changes in your asthma, how your asthma is affecting your life and new triggers for your asthma. When you are recording symptoms, consider including the following information:

  • Time of day symptoms occurred
  • Description of symptom including bodily location
  • Severity of symptoms
  • Activity being done before or during the arrival of symptoms
  • Remedy or action is taken to relieve the symptoms
  • Indication if exact symptoms are reoccurring

Keep your doctor informed with your symptom diary. With accurate information, you and your doctor can discuss your asthma and how to properly handle it. Being aware of your body and how it reacts to being exposed to certain factors will be the most important knowledge to have when trying to reduce asthma symptoms. In the same sense, the body must be properly cared for in all aspects. Seeking overall health is the next step to a productive management plan.

Maintain Your Well-Being

Begin by raising your overall health. The body is an entity in which different parts influence each other. Ensuring the whole body is healthy will lessen the symptoms of asthma. Putting forth extra effort to include a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle can greatly reduce unnecessary interruptions in the joy of living. Here are a few tips to build better wellbeing:

Take Your Medication

Obvious to some but still an issue with others. Taking your asthma medication is key to symptom management. Occasionally those living with asthma will think the medications are not effective. On the contrary, medications prescribed by the doctor are necessary and should not be ignored. Daily exercise and a healthy diet will not fully prevent or manage asthma properly.

Stop Smoking Immediately!

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but there are still many people with asthma abusing smoking products. Smoking with asthma significantly increases the occurrence and severity of symptoms. Smoking also reduces the effectiveness of medications. For those who do not smoke, actively avoid second-hand smoke.

Exercise on a Regular Basis

Exercising may seem like the wrong activity to suggest for those with asthma. However, strengthening the lungs through physical activity can reduce symptom reoccurrence. Exercise will also disperse stress, another trigger for asthma, from everyday life keeping you calm and relaxed.

Receive your Vaccinations

During flu and cold season, it is pertinent to receive vaccinations and prepare prevention methods. Cold and flu illnesses are viral infections of the respiratory system. Because of aging bodies and failing immune systems, older people with asthma will find it more difficult to control asthma symptoms when ill.

Sickness will be more impactful and will last longer for older adults with asthma. Therefore, seniors should be more aware and take extra precaution with vaccinations and other possible respiratory viral infections. Specifically, the Pneumococcal and pneumonia vaccinations prevent serious chest infections and should be seriously considered by those living with asthma. Coupling medication regimes and management regimes with a healthy wellbeing can be the ultimate prevention method for your asthma.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are modern treatment options for lung disease?

Each form of lung disease demands a different approach in how it is treated. Some are a matter of receiving the right medication, while others may resort to surgical methods or modern cancer-fighting techniques. Based on your diagnosis, physicians and doctors can recommend the best path to take.

In general, if you are suffering from a lung disease it is best to stay away from problematic conditions and areas with an excess of particulate matter in the air. Avoid cigarette smoke and try to breathe oxygen rich air in natural, non-urban environments. Although it might be difficult, taking some time away from pets can also limit the agitation of your respiratory system if you have allergies.

Asthma – Besides the avoidance of environmental stressors like smoke, dust, and other allergens, asthma can be treated with beta2 agonists, anticholinergics, corticosteroids, anti-IgE therapy, and other drugs. Each substance used to treat asthma comes with a unique set of risks and possible side effects, so always consult your doctor while undergoing treatment.

COPD – Again, quitting smoking and avoiding environmental triggers can help manage your symptoms, otherwise medicines are available. Bronchodilators can be used to ease and open the airways, mostly coming in the form of inhalers and other breathable substances. Many of the available medications overlap with treatments for asthma.

Emphysema – There are a variety of treatments available depending on the severity of this condition. Bronchodilators and other inhaled medications can be effective in early stages of the disease, but it may be necessary to undergo surgery to remove small wedges of damaged lung tissue. The last resort is a lung transplant, however, intermittent pulmonary rehabilitation and supplemental oxygen can maintain one’s health throughout the condition.

Bronchitis – Since it is mostly caused by viral infections, antibiotics are ineffective, however, doctors may still recommend them if it is suspected to be a bacterial infection. Inhaler medications may also be prescribed to allow greater airflow and reduce any inflammation.

Pneumonia – The most effective treatment available is the use of antibiotics due to pneumonia’s status as a bacterial infection. Most people will see an improvement within 2 to 3 days of taking the medication, though it's important to be in close consultation with your doctor during the process.

Pulmonary Embolism – Many times this condition will be treated with anticoagulation medication. Working to prevent pulmonary embolisms is key. Genetic predisposition, smoking, prolonged immobilization, and general damage to the blood vessel walls are all factors that increase the risk of having a pulmonary embolism.

Lung Cancer – Treatment typically includes multiple options including, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted drug therapy.

  • Surgery – Includes the removal of a section or the entirety of the lung. Most surgeries take a small margin of health tissue along with the affected areas to limit the spread of cancer.
  • Chemotherapy – Uses intravenous drugs to kill off cancerous cells. This method often follows a surgery in order to eliminate any cells left behind. It may also be the case that chemotherapy is administered before a surgery in hopes of shrinking tumors.
  • Radiation Therapy – Uses high-powered X-rays and photons to destroy cancer cells. This type of therapy can be directed at cancer cells from outside of the body, or placed near the cancer through needles, seeds, or catheters. 
  • Targeted Drug Therapy – These treatments are the newest addition to the fight against cancer, often involving multiple drugs working in conjunction with one another.

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What are some tips for maintaining healthy lungs?

The most obvious way to maintain healthy lung function is to stop smoking. 8 out of 10 COPD deaths are a direct result of smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. This is also the best bet against developing any number of cancers.

For other lung diseases, proper exercise and regular activities that expand the lungs are great ways to limit the buildup of mucus, which can eventually cause infection.

Washing your hands and avoiding crowds during cold and flu season are also important considerations that help to avoid sickness in any form. Additionally, make sure to stay up to date with your influenza vaccinations. There is also a vaccine for pneumonia, but be sure to consult your doctor to see if it is right for you.

Lung diseases can take many forms ranging from mild ailments to life-threatening conditions. Learning about the different ways to prevent and treat these diseases can ensure your golden years remain a breath of fresh air.

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