Asthma is often misdiagnosed in older adults because of the common belief that it is just a childhood disease. But according to the American Lung
Association, experts now think about 10 percent of the people with asthma are over age 65.
Some adults with asthma have dealt with the disease all their lives. Others may have had asthma as a child and experienced it again after many symptom-free
years. But if you’ve developed breathing problems as an adult, you have lots of company. Lateonset asthma is becoming more common and is often triggered by a
serious respiratory infection.
Women are more likely to be affected than men, possibly because of their smaller airways. Researchers think hormones may also play a part. They’ve found that
women who are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are 50 percent more likely to develop asthma than women who aren’t on HRT.
Although asthma is a serious and potentially fatal disease, you can protect yourself by avoiding things that trigger an attack. Cigarette smoke, cold air,
dust, and mold are a few examples of asthma triggers. And research shows that eating foods rich in certain nutrients may help reduce your asthma symptoms.
Nutritional blockbusters that fight asthma
Vitamin C. Researchers say antioxidant vitamins could play an important role in preventing asthma or controlling its symptoms. Vitamin C is the perfect
example. Studies have found that vitamin C not only improves asthma symptoms, it helps you avoid the disease altogether. For top-notch asthma protection, mix
up a fruit salad with oranges, pineapple, strawberries, kiwifruit, and papaya. Then pile your dinner plate with high-C vegetables like broccoli, red and
green peppers, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and peas.
Vitamin E. Another antioxidant powerhouse that may cut your risk of asthma is vitamin E. A study in Saudi Arabia found that children who had the least
vitamin E in their diets were three times more likely to get asthma. Research also shows that vitamin E helps protect you from developing this condition as
an adult. For extra lung protection, sprinkle some vitamin E-packed wheat germ, almonds, peanuts, or sunflower seeds on a salad or in baked goods.
Vitamin A. This vitamin completes the asthma-fighting trio of antioxidants. Studies find that people who eat vitamin A-rich foods tend to have clearer air
passages, which makes breathing easier. You’ll find vitamin A in meat and dairy products, especially beef and chicken livers, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese,
and egg yolks.
Lycopene. Think pink – or red – to help avoid asthma symptoms. Lycopene, the carotenoid that gives foods their pink or red coloring, may protect against
asthma, according to a recent small study. Researchers gave people with exercise-induced asthma 30 milligrams of lycopene each day for one week. At the end
of the week, more than half the people showed significant protection against asthma symptoms.
It’s always best to get your nutrients from foods, and in this case, it could earn you double protection. Many foods that contain lycopene, such as tomatoes,
pink grapefruit, and watermelon, are also high in vitamin C.
Magnesium and selenium. These minerals may be the dynamic duo of asthma-fighting minerals. Magnesium acts as a bronchodilator, which means it helps open up
your airways, making it easier to breathe. Selenium’s power against asthma may come from its antioxidant abilities. Studies show that people with low levels
of selenium are more likely to have asthma. You’ll find selenium in meats and shellfish and in vegetables and grains grown in selenium-rich soil. Food
sources of magnesium include avocados, oysters, and beans. Broccoli is a good source of both minerals.
Water. A tall glass of water could be your ally if you’re asthmatic. Researchers at the University at Buffalo (UB) discovered that the symptoms of people
with exercise-induced asthma got worse, both before and during exercise, when they didn’t drink enough water.
Frank Cerny, Ph.D., stresses the importance of drinking water, especially if you have asthma. “The message continues to be, `Drink fluids whenever you get
the chance,” says Cerny, chairman of the UB Department of Physical Therapy, Exercise, and Nutrition Sciences. “If you have asthma, dehydration may make it
worse, particularly during exercise.”
Your body needs water long before you feel thirst so don’t wait until you’re thirsty to wet your whistle. Make sure you drink at least six full glasses of
water every day – more when you exercise.
Caffeine. Start your morning with a fragrant cup of coffee, and you may ease your asthma. Caffeine is chemically related to theophylline, a drug used to
treat asthma. When you have an asthma attack, the muscles around your airways tighten up and your passages swell, making it difficult to breathe. Caffeine
helps relax your bronchial tubes so your airways stay open. Research shows that caffeine can help improve symptoms for up to four hours.