Asthma is the disease of the twenty-first century. Typhoid and cholera were once rampant everywhere, and they indeed still are problems in developing or Third World countries. However, it is increasingly true in developed countries, including the United States, that asthma is a new epidemic. Asthma does not make the headlines as dramatically as these two killers once did, but nonetheless, it is a killer in its own right. If not taken care of properly, is just as deadly as typhoid and cholera once were.
What is asthma and how does it affect sufferers' bodies? Simply put, asthma narrows the tubes present in the lungs during an acute attack, which makes it more difficult for the sufferer to breathe. Three factors affect this spasmodic reaction in the lungs' tubes. In addition, because sufferers are struggling to breathe, muscles in the throat also contract during an attack, and edema may also occur (basically, swelling), which makes it even more difficult to breathe. Mucus may also build up because mucus occurs as a reaction to irritants and tries to act as a buffer or coating to both remove any irritant and to soothe the underlying tissue. This constitutes an asthma attack.
Asthma attacks be relatively benign or very severe. Simply relaxing and breathing through an attack calmly may be enough to thwart it, perhaps with use of an inhaler. Experienced asthma sufferers know that it helps to be calm during an attack, in order to make symptoms less severe and go away more quickly. Inexperienced sufferers, or those prone to nervousness anyway, may experience panic attacks, which would make the asthma attacks even more severe. The harder you try to breathe, the harder it becomes. You may truly feel as though you are drowning.
Why do some people get asthma and others not? No one knows for sure who will get asthma and who won't, but there are several predisposing factors, including genetic predisposition. Others prone to asthma may include those who smoke and those who are overweight and/or obese, and who do not remain physically active. After all, the lungs are organs that need exercise, too, and if you're not getting sufficient cardiovascular exercise every day, you make yourself more prone to asthma. Whatever your particular predisposition, if you have asthma, it will help to know what you're triggers are. These include pollen, dust, cigarette smoke, animal hair and dander, and others. Those with the most severe asthma may even have to be careful with vigorous exercise or extreme laughter, for example. Fortunately, with the intervention of medications, these types of situations are relatively rare.
If you do have asthma, the good news is the that you can control it, both by limiting your exposure to your triggers and knowing what they are, and using proper medication as prescribed by your doctor. You should also get sufficient exercise geared to your particular situation, since strengthening your lungs will also help thwart asthma attacks.
One little-known theory as to why asthma occurs is that asthma is a defense mechanism asthma sufferers' bodies use to keep the right balance of different gases in their lungs. By retraining themselves in their breathing (meaning slowly and carefully) they found that their asthma went away. Whether or not this is true, certainly, calm and relaxed breathing does, indeed, help keep asthma at bay, as does strengthening the lungs, as previously stated.
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