Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Asthma in Women: Gender Differences Are Important

I recently interviewed Dr. Cliff Bassett about asthma in women and he gave some interesting insights into gender differences associated with this disease. I’ve summarized our conversation below – or you can listen to it here.

The CDC reports that 9% of women have asthma compared to 5% of men. I think that’s a very important finding and I’m not sure if women know that they’re at higher risk than men. The good news is that asthma is completely treatable, although sadly we have as many as 4000 deaths per year in this country attributed to asthma. We’re doing a better job identifying those with severe asthma, and the death rates are decreasing.

Women need to understand that even a small amount of weight gain (as little as 5 pounds) can add up to a much higher risk of death for women with severe asthma. So weight management is very important for those with more challenging asthma symptoms.

Women are more likely to be hospitalized due to an asthma attack than men. And interestingly, up to 40% of women report that their asthma symptoms get worse just before and after menstruation. So for women it’s important to keep a symptom diary, so that if there’s a regular worsening of asthma during menstruation, they might need to be treated more aggressively (perhaps with steroids or other medications) during that time of the month.

The new asthma guidelines (from the NIH) emphasize understanding asthma triggers as the foundation of prevention. It’s much safer to avert an asthma attack than to have to treat a full blown one. So it’s really important for women with asthma to figure out what might trigger their symptoms, and avoid those triggers as much as possible.

Now that it’s winter time, most environmental triggers are of the indoor variety. Over 100 million US households have pets. The most common pet is the cat, and up to 10% of people with allergies develop specific allergies to cats. If an individual suspects that she has a pet allergy, she should see an allergist to get tested to confirm that. Avoidance measures are important, though there are medications and allergy immune therapy (allergy shots) that can help with pet allergies.

Cold dry air can be an asthma trigger in some individuals, especially if they’re engaging in outdoor physical activity. Warm ups and cool downs can help to head off an asthma attack in the cold, though it’s always a good idea to have a rescue inhaler handy.

**Listen To Podcast***This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »

Commented - Most Popular Articles