You know that asthma affects your body, but did you ever stop to think about how it affects your mental well-being? In a recent survey, people who reported mental health problems often also had asthma. Can one condition actually cause the other? Researchers are just beginning to sort out these mind-body connections.
About two to five of every 10 people with asthma also suffer from depression. That's understandable, as asthma is a challenge to manage. Having asthma can make you feel anxious about physical activity, and it can mean missing school or work or waking up in the night because of symptoms. But experiencing depression or anxiety may actually raise the risk for asthma. In a study of more than 18,000 adults, those who experienced severe stress, depression, or anxiety in childhood were more likely to have asthma. Researchers think these experiences may harm a child's nervous and immune systems, leading to asthma later in life.
Any mental health problem needs attention because being depressed or anxious affects every aspect of life. Plus, depression and anxiety can make it harder for you to take care of yourself and stick with your asthma management plan.
If you think you might be depressed, are feeling anxious, or have other mental health concerns, talk with your doctor. If you're not sure how to raise the issue, just say, "I haven't been feeling myself lately, and I'd like to talk with you about it." There are effective treatments for depression and other mood disorders that your doctor may suggest. These steps can help as well:
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For some people, exercise can trigger asthma symptoms. So how can you be physically active and have good asthma control? Medication helps, but so does your choice of activity. Here are some asthma-friendly exercises you can try.
Swimming. It's one of the best physical activities for people with asthma. The warm, humid setting and upper-body toning are helpful. Just avoid excessively chlorinated pools. Concerns have recently been raised about their possible link to asthma attacks.
Baseball, football, golf, and surfing. These sports call for short bursts of energy. They are less likely to trigger asthma symptoms than sports that require sustained vigorous activity.
Walking, hiking, and leisure cycling. Asthma issues are less likely to arise from these sports.
Many asthma episodes can be prevented by using an inhaler before exercise. Exercising indoors on days with ozone alerts or high pollen counts and avoiding freshly cut or sprayed playing fields may help, too.
To help prevent asthma episodes, talk with your health care provider about your exercise routine and ask how to use medications. That way you can have an active, healthy summer.