From time to time, asthma might slow you down or keep you on the sidelines. You might feel limited in what you can do and may have to adjust your lifestyle accordingly. These are two truths to managing asthma that no one wants to admit.
Managing a lifestyle with asthma can be difficult, but maintaining your lifestyle is important, too. No one wants to feel like they’re giving up or giving in.
After my asthma diagnosis, it was clear that I would have to slow down. I was experiencing some of the worst asthma flare-ups of my life and knew that I was going to have to do some things differently. I dove head-first into learning how to manage a chronic condition, and figured out a lot of things through a process of trial-and-error. I had to adopt a few new lifestyle changes but didn’t want to compromise on any of the activities I loved, like running, trying new restaurants, and enjoying a good glass of red wine.
Managing the symptoms of asthma through lifestyle changes will look different for everyone. While you’ll still need to work closely with your doctor or healthcare team to manage asthma, here are a few lifestyle tips that worked for me and may be able to help improve your overall health and possibly even your asthma symptoms.
Eating a well-balanced diet is important for everyone, but people with asthma have a few other boxes to check outside of eating fruits and vegetables. Some research indicates that foods high in antioxidants can positively impact asthma symptoms, and diet can play a huge role in disease management. The same study also suggests that people with asthma tend to have lower levels of certain antioxidants in their blood. High levels of antioxidants are found in foods like nuts, seeds, citrus fruits, green vegetables, and so much more. If you have asthma, you may want to try adding foods rich in vitamins A, C, D, and E to your diet.
There is also some evidence that inflammatory foods — such as high-fat, sugary, or processed foods — may negatively impact asthma symptoms. I personally eliminated inflammation-causing foods from my diet this year and have seen a huge improvement in my overall asthma symptoms. Even certain fruits and vegetables may cause inflammation — I personally found that certain nightshade vegetables, like potatoes, peppers, and eggplant, all negatively affect me in various ways.
An anti-inflammatory diet is somewhat similar to the Mediterranean diet, which avoids processed sugar and many pre-packaged foods in favor of healthy fats and a higher intake of fruits and vegetables. It may take some trial-and-error to determine if dietary changes can benefit your asthma, so always be sure to share any concerns with your doctor.
At first glance, exercising when you have asthma may sound like a bad idea. You’re already having issues breathing, does physical activity really make sense? The answer is yes! Exercise might just look a little different than what you’re used to, and can include activities like walking, gardening, yoga, baseball, golfing, and swimming. Talk with your doctor about finding safe ways to exercise that won’t exacerbate your asthma.
Losing weight can also be beneficial to your asthma. In my most recent doctor’s visit, they recommended that I lose weight as I had crept into the overweight category for my height. I made a commitment to exercise at least three days a week by walking the dog, jogging, doing yoga, or taking a group fitness class. After I lost 25 pounds, my asthma has been more controlled than ever before in my life.
Stress and strong emotions can exacerbate asthma symptoms or even trigger an asthma attack. Because I sometimes experience anxiety related to my asthma, I work hard to try and keep my stress levels in check. I focus on deep breathing, mindfulness, and yoga to help reduce stress and bring my heart rate down in times of crisis.
I’ve also been working toward reducing clutter around the house and living a more minimalist lifestyle, which reduce two of the main triggers for my asthma symptoms: dust and stress. Having a stress-free home is my ultimate goal.
While I’m more of a do-it-yourself kind of girl, I also rely heavily on my network. It truly does take a village to manage a chronic condition, and it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Talking about asthma with others can be hugely beneficial in reducing your stress, and may even help to shift your perspective around what it takes to manage this condition. Having an asthma attack doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, and striving for perfection is impossible. Show yourself some kindness and focus on the positive changes and progress you’ve made over time.
Living a good life with asthma is possible. A good management plan and a few simple lifestyle changes can help!
For more information on how to manage asthma, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
RESP-US-NP-00099 MARCH 2019