The one trigger people with asthma should avoid
Stress doesn’t just put you on edge, it can affect your asthma too.1 Here’s how to take control.
Nearly half of people say stress makes their asthma symptoms worse.1 To be fair, stress makes everything seem worse – but when it comes to asthma, the physical effects can be very real.2
When you’re under pressure, your brain releases stress hormones that affect the whole body.3 Adrenaline, for example, speeds up your heart rate and raises your blood pressure, giving you that jittery feeling.3 It also makes your breathing faster and shallower3– not great for anyone, and especially not if you have asthma.1
Stress hormones can also lead to elevated levels of inflammatory compounds called cytokines in the blood, which can affect the airways, causing them to narrow, and triggering symptoms.4
While it’s impossible to eliminate stress from your life completely, there are ways to manage it and reduce the impact on your asthma. Here are just a few:
Ask for help
Always start by talking to your doctor, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your to do list, try to cut back on commitments or ask friends and family to help out. If your job is stressful, talk to your employer rather than letting it affect your health.
Avoid bad habits
Often our reaction to stress is part of the problem. Smoking, drinking, and reaching for junk food, for example, can all increase inflammation in the body and aggravate asthma symptoms.5,6 Try to find healthier ways to let off steam and your body will thank you.
Take a stroll
Exercise works wonders for your mental health by helping reduce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.7 It also helps to build heart and lung fitness,8 so it’s a win-win. Always start by talking to your doctor, but you don’t have to run a marathon to make a difference – even just a walk in the park could help clear your head and reduce your stress levels.7 Speak to your doctor about the right level of exercise for you, if you’re unsure. Click here to read more about how exercise can help you manage your asthma.
Stick to a routine
Stress can throw everything into chaos, including remembering to take your asthma medication.9 Keep it by your bed to remind you to take it as your doctor prescribed – even on hectic days.
Think Act Don’t React
Life’s stressful enough without having to worry about asthma, so if you’re regularly experiencing symptoms, speak to your doctor. They will be able to talk you through management options, so you can get on and live life without interruption.
The demands of modern life mean most of us feel under pressure at some stage. So next time you start to feel like things are getting a bit on top of you, take a deep breath and remember to put your health first.
Is your asthma well controlled?
If you’re concerned about your asthma, speak to your doctor about daily treatment. The asthma control test (ACT) is a quick way to see how asthma symptoms are affecting your everyday life. Click on the link below to get the results in seconds – and be sure to share them with your doctor.
- Asthma UK. Asthma and stress. Available at: https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/stress/. Accessed February 2022.
- Oren E, Martinez FD. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2020;125(4):372–373.e1.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Understanding the stress response. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response. Accessed February 2022.
- Ritz T. Front Physiol 2012;3:343.
- Chalmers GW, et al. Chest 2001;120(6):1917–1922.
- American Lung Association. Asthma and nutrition: How food affects your lungs. Available at: https://www.lung.org/blog/asthma-and-nutrition. Accessed February 2022.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Exercising to relax. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax. Accessed February 2022.
- American Lung Association. Exercise and lung health. Available at: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/wellness/exercise-and-lung-health. Accessed February 2022.
- Cochrane GM, Horne R, Chanez P. Resp Med 1999;93:763–769.