About 26 million Americans have asthma: a chronic respiratory disease that’s characterized by airway inflammation and difficulty breathing. Despite the availability to many asthma therapies, it is believed that over 50% of asthma patients remain poorly controlled.
When you have asthma, your airways become inflamed, narrow and irritable. Your lungs make more mucus, and it becomes difficult to breathe. Asthma gets worse with certain triggers, including airborne allergens, exercise, and even stress.
In fact, emotional stress may be one of the most common asthma triggers — and it’s often overlooked. At Kamelhar-Teller Pulmonology, David Kamelhar, MD, Eric Teller, MD, and our team specialize in asthma care for all ages.
Here, you can learn more about the links between stress and asthma, and find treatment options to help you start breathing easier.
The connection between stress and asthma
Psychological stress occurs when an individual believes or senses that their environmental demands exceed their abilities to cope with them.
When you experience stress, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones trigger both physical and emotional changes that prepare you to respond to the particular cause or causes of that stress.
Your response to stress can have both positive and negative effects. In small amounts, threat-stress response can help you perform better and be more productive. But unfortunately, chronic or excessive stress may have harmful effects on your body — including exacerbating asthma symptoms.
Research shows that stress can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms. For example, children who experience stressful life events, like a parents’ divorce, are more likely to have worsening asthma symptoms. In adults with asthma, higher stress levels often lead to poor asthma control and more frequent asthma symptoms.
While the links between stress and asthma are not fully understood, there are several theories. Stress increases inflammation in your body (including your airways) which can trigger asthma symptoms. Stress can also affect your autonomic nervous system (which controls breathing) and can make your airways become narrower.
Minimizing the impact of stress on your asthma
It must be emphasized that sticking to the program of monitoring and medication recommended by your physician remains the single most important factor in proper asthma care.
Stress is a natural part of life, but learning how to manage your stress levels is an important part of managing asthma. Dr. Kamelhar and Dr. Teller can help you identify your asthma triggers and develop a treatment plan to reduce your symptoms.
Here are a few of our recommendations to reduce stress and improve asthma symptoms:
Practice relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques can help you calm down and lower your stress levels in everyday situations. Try learning methods like deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation to manage stress and improve your asthma symptoms.
Get regular exercise
Regular exercise is important for your overall health, and it’s a great way to manage stress naturally. Exercise can also improve your lung function and reduce asthma symptoms. Remember to talk to your health care team before starting a new exercise program to make sure it’s safe for you.
Start cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT therapy focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. Participating in CBT can help you identify stressors in your life and find more effective ways to deal with them, which can lower your stress levels and minimize asthma flare-ups. Drs. Kamelhar and Teller can direct you to professionals who can help you with this form of therapy.
For many people with asthma, medication is an important part of treatment. We can recommend medications like bronchodilators and corticosteroids to help keep your asthma under control. Most of the time, we recommend using asthma medication in conjunction with other treatments.
Stress is a common asthma trigger. But with the right guidance, you can successfully manage both stress and asthma to live a healthier, more active life. Learn more about asthma care and get a customized treatment plan from our team at Kamelhar-Teller Pulmonology in Midtown East, New York City.
Call our office at 212-685-6611 or request your first appointment online today.