How Asthma Can Affect Your Brain
Asthma is a chronic medical condition that not only impacts your respiratory system, but can also affect your neurological health.
There are three ways asthma can affect your brain:
- When coping with stress and anxiety
- When asthma management becomes too stressful to handle.
- When severe asthma goes untreated-potentially causing brain damage in extreme cases.
Stress as an Asthma Cause
The medical community has long recognized that when people are under great mental stress, they start to experience the onset of asthma for the first time. A study conducted by German researchers that appeared in the journal Allergy in October 2010 confirms the concept that stress can cause asthma. The study also revealed that people who are stressed at work can have a 40 percent higher likelihood of developing asthma than their calmer counterparts.
One theory to explain the brain and asthma connection is that when people have stressful thoughts, it causes their bodies to release chemicals that can cause lung inflammation. Over time, this inflammation may lead to the development of asthma.
The Asthma-Brain Cycle
Another way that asthma and the brain are connected is because when you suffer from asthma, you may be worried about your symptoms and this can cause you to become more stressed. A study in the CHEST journal in March 2010 shows that asthmatics are 50 percent more likely to experience anxiety and depression than people with a healthy respiratory system. However, the researchers are uncertain about the exact cause and effect of the connection. So it's still unclear if it's asthma that leads to stress or if it's that asthmatics are just more prone to experience stress.
The Risk of Asthma-Brain Damage
If you suffer from uncontrolled asthma, there's always the chance that this could deprive the brain of oxygen, which can lead to brain damage in extreme cases. Managing your condition and seeking prompt medical care in an asthma emergency can greatly reduce this risk.
There are some important things you can do to prevent stress from making asthma worse:
- Work with your doctor to develop an asthma action plan or update your current one.
- Monitor your lung capacity with a peak flow monitor (an easy-to-use hand held device) so you'll know right away if you need to adjust your treatment accordingly.
- Take your asthma medicines as directed.
- Contact your doctor if you notice that your symptoms are getting worse or if you experience them more frequently.
- Engage in regular exercise. Swimming, walking, and yoga are easy for asthmatics to tolerate and can help control asthma and stress, too.
- Practice deep breathing to help yourself stay calm when you feel your stress level is rising.
- Make an effort to organize yourself and to prioritize your responsibilities to keep from feeling overwhelmed.
- Eat a balanced diet and get a good night's sleep to help your body stay well.
"Hypoxic and Anoxic Brain Injury." Headway. The Brain Injury Organization. Headway.org.uk, n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2011.
Loerbroks, A. et. al. "Work-Related Stress, Inability to Relax after Work and Risk of Adult Asthma: a Population-Based Cohort Study." Allergy 65 (10) (Oct. 2010): 1298-1305.
Oraka, Emeka. "Asthma and Serious Psychological Distress: Prevalence and Risk Factors Among US Adults, 2001-2007." CHEST 137 (3) (March 2010): 609-616.
Weinberger, Miles. "Managing Asthma for Patients and Families: Overview of Asthma." University of Iowa Children's Hospital, University of Iowa Health Care, 30 June 2008. Web, 12 Aug. 2011.
"What is Asthma?" National Healthcare Group. International Patient Liaison Centre, n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2011.
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