Did you know that being overweight can increase your risk of being hospitalized for asthma? This is especially true for women, although both sexes can experience the connection, which can be extremely dangerous-and sometimes fatal.

A Vicious Cycle

The reason why asthma and obesity co-exist isn't completely clear, but experts do know that the relationship can be a vicious cycle. Consider the fact that overweight people who suffer from asthma may find that their breathing problems make it difficult to exercise in order to get in better shape. Yet carrying the extra weight also causes further breathing challenges and can lead to a worsening of asthma symptoms, creating an unhealthy chain that can be difficult to break.

Possible Reasons

Some researchers suggest that the root of the problem may be traced back to several factors. Consider the following possibilities:

  • People who are overweight seem have greater inflammation in their airways, which can lead to worsening asthma symptoms.
  • Many overweight people don't seem to respond as well to asthma control medications as their counterparts who are of average weight.
  • People who are obese can be at increased risk for developing sleep apnea, which irritates the bronchial tubes and makes them more inflamed. This can worsen asthma symptoms and lower activity level, making it difficult for such patients to lose weight.

Sex Differences

Just keep in mind that if you are a female asthmatic who is overweight, the experts believe that the odds are stacked even higher against you.  This is because females are more prone to experience asthma then men, while also suffering from more severe symptoms and more frequent occurrences. As a result, women have increased asthma hospitalization rates, and the numbers are higher among females who are overweight compared with their average weight counterparts.

Gain Control

To better understand the role that gender plays in the relationship, researchers at the University of Michigan looked at the characteristics of females who had co-existing asthma and obesity conditions and found that many of them had lower incomes, increased health problems and relied less on outside resources for support. The findings, which were published in Women's Health in the spring of 2009, speak to the need for doctors to reach out more to overweight women with asthma and help them get these conditions better under control.

Fight Back

But regardless of your gender, if you suffer from asthma and obesity, it's important to consult with your doctor for advice on how to tackle both issues. In general, a good rule of thumb when addressing asthma and obesity is to work on controlling your asthma first, before you try increasing your exercise and monitoring your diet. Once your breathing symptoms are well managed, it should make it much easier to become more active and to come up with an effective routine that works for you and your goals. With some carefully planned efforts, you can lose weight and breathe better.




American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology


University of Michigan/Women's Health


American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)/Pediatrics