Asthma Risk Increases with Waist Size

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Women's Health

Asthma Risk Increases with Waist Size

Research has shown that obesity increases risk for asthma in adults, especially for women. Although few studies have researched if waist size alone also raises risk, a new study published in Thorax suggests it does.

Researchers analyzed data on more than 88,000 women who participated in the California Teachers Study. The volunteers were current teachers and school administrators working in the California public school system, as well as retired employees who receive benefits. Each study participant reported her height and weight in 1995 and her waist circumference two years later. In 2000, participants self-reported information about a current medical diagnosis of asthma, including the age of initial diagnosis, symptoms, management, and treatment of the condition.

Overall, 8 percent of the volunteers self-reported a current diagnosis of asthma. Asthma rates were 6 percent among normal-weight women, 8 percent in those who were overweight, 11 percent among the somewhat obese, 13 percent among the very obese, and 18 percent in the extremely obese. Weight categories were determined using body mass index (BMI) -- a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

General and Abdominal Obesity Linked to Asthma Risk

Researchers also looked at asthma risk by waist size. Study participants with a waist larger than 35 inches were considered to have abdominal obesity. Even in normal-weight women, a large waist was linked with asthma risk. Those with abdominal obesity but a normal weight had a 37 percent higher risk for asthma compared with normal-weight women with smaller waist measurements. This level of risk was similar to that of women who were overweight but not abdominally obese.

Rates of Abdominal Obesity Increasing

Abdominal obesity is increasing faster than overall obesity in the U.S. In fact, 61 percent of U.S. women and 42 percent of men are considered abdominally obese (40 inches or higher for men; 35 inches or higher for women). In addition to higher asthma risk, larger waist size has been linked to increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

To measure your waist circumference, place a tape measure around your bare belly, just above your hip bone. Pull the tape snug without pinching and keep it parallel to the floor. Try to relax, exhale, and measure your waist.

If your waist measures more than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, talk with your doctor to find out if you should lose weight.

Need Help Losing Weight?

If you need to lose weight, these ideas from the Weight-control Information Network can help support your weight-loss goals:

  • Keep a food diary to track how much you are eating.

  • Shop only from your grocery list and avoid shopping when hungry.

  • Store high-fat, high-sugar foods out of sight or don't keep them in your home.

  • Serve smaller portions at home.

  • At restaurants, eat only half your meal and ask to take the rest home.

  • Eat at the dining table and turn off the television.

  • Aim for a slow, modest weight loss of no more than one to two pounds per week. But, expect setbacks and forgive yourself if you regain a few pounds.

  • Seek support from family and friends.

  • Add moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity to your weight-loss plan. Start by walking 10 minutes a day, three days a week. Build up slowly from there.

Always consult your physician for more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

National Asthma Education and Prevention Program

NIH - Obesity

Thorax - Obesity, waist size and prevalence of current asthma in the California Teachers Study cohort

November 2009

Eat Well to Stay Healthy

If you have asthma, resolve to make lung-friendly food choices the next time you open the refrigerator or grab lunch on the go. While there's no special diet for asthma, healthy foods can help fight inflammation and keep your lungs strong. Follow these tips to make smart food choices:

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Vitamins and antioxidants can lower inflammation in the lungs. In a recent study, teens who ate low levels of fruit had worse lung function and were more likely to have asthma. Other studies have linked a low vegetable intake to coughing and wheezing.

  • Go for fish. Certain types of fish contain healthy omega-3 fats, which travel to lung cells and block inflammation. Getting more omega-3s can reduce coughing and wheezing. Good sources of omega-3s include salmon, lake trout, albacore tuna, and mackerel.

  • Choose whole grains. Whole grains also are rich in antioxidants. Brown rice, oatmeal, and whole wheat bread are great choices.

  • Trim portions. Being overweight can lead to more asthma symptoms and the need for higher doses of medication. But today's super-sized servings of food can pack on the pounds. Reduce your portion sizes to reduce calories, which will help take the weight off.

Always consult your physician for more information.

Last Review Date: Oct 15, 2009

© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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