How losing weight helped one woman's asthma symptoms
18th February 2014
weight lossSally, 45, a hairdresser from Aldington in Kent, was horrified when the nurse at her asthma clinic requested that she step onto the scales. Like many other women, Sally had decided to avoid all scales out of fear, but stepping onto them gave her a startling shock – she could be officially classed as ‘obese’ weighing 11st at only 5 ft 2in tall. “They saw on my notes that I suffered from asthma, but this was the first time anyone in the medical profession had weighed me”, she says. “The problem was that I didn't feel fat because the weight had crept on so gradually during and after my pregnancies. Then when the children left things on their plates, I'd pick at the leftovers.” As her weight increased, Sally was finding it more difficult to control her asthma symptoms, meaning even doing basic things such as walking  up the stairs and looking after  her children, Maizie, now 12, and Merrin, nine, left her breathless. What Sally didn’t realise is that weight loss is the key for an overall improvement in health for those overweight or obese, but especially so for asthmatics. Studies have shown that people with asthma who are also overweight or obese could see an improvement in their symptoms if they lose weight and this should be included in any asthma management program.

The asthma clinic nurse that Sally spoke to then recommended she should lose weight and would no doubt see an improvement to her asthma symptoms.

Sally says: “It was a real wake-up call. I knew that I had to do something about it or my asthma would just get worse because I would become more immobile and reluctant to exercise.” Deborah Waddell, clinical lead nurse at the charity Asthma UK, explains: “Obese people find their asthma much harder to control.” Asthma began for Sally following a severe episode of flu at the age of 19 - Upper respiratory infections are typically caused by cold and flu viruses and are a one of a number of triggers for asthma. Her asthma gradually got worse. “Getting up the stairs was very scary because the wheezing was so loud.  And it stayed at the same level in my 30s and into my 40s. I couldn't run after the children at the park.” Sally now uses a brown preventer inhaler every morning for protection and a quick-acting blue reliever Ventolin inhaler when symptoms start to arise. Sally’s symptoms worsen during the winter, when feeling stressed, or when coming into contact with pet hair. Despite the fact many people with asthma tend to avoid all exercise on fear of it triggering an attack, Sally began an exercise regime, which has actually been a huge benefit as asthma can boost the lung capacity in asthmatics. She now goes running three times a week for four miles, attends a weekly spinning class and cycles for journeys where the car is not a necessity. “I lost a stone-and-a-half in eight months and it made a huge difference," says Sally. "It really brought the asthma under control and made the attacks less frequent and less severe - I have just one a month instead of three a week. When I was 11st, my body was struggling to  cope with the weight, especially climbing stairs, but the fitter you are, the stronger your  lungs become.”