Asthma attacks are scary, and if you’re a woman, your chance of being diagnosed with asthma increases as you age. When you’re 20, the rate of diagnosis is equally split between men and women. However, by age 40, women are twice as likely to have asthma than men of the same age.
“We are aware of gender differences in some diseases such as breast cancer,” says Andrea Anthony, MD, a pulmonologist with Meritas Health Pulmonary Medicine. “However, we are just beginning to notice the gender differences in adult asthma.” Women tend to have more severe asthma than men, and they have a higher rate of hospitalization.
If your mom or dad has asthma, you’re 3-to-6 times more likely to have it, too. “Hormones such as estrogen can also play a role in asthma,” Dr. Anthony explains. “It’s not estrogen itself that triggers an asthma attack. It’s the fluctuation of the hormone brought on by menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause.” Other risk factors include allergies and being overweight.
Allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen and molds can aggravate asthma. Tobacco smoke, pollution, exercise, stress, colds or the flu can also trigger a flare up.
Common asthma symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and a chronic cough. If the symptoms come and go, pay attention to any patterns, and discuss them with your doctor. If you have a severe onset of symptoms, head to the Emergency Room immediately.
If you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, work closely with your doctor to control it. There are many ways to treat and manage asthma so you can live a healthy and active life.
While there is no cure for asthma, it can be controlled. Managing your triggers is one option. For example, menopausal women may control asthma by using an estrogen patch. If seasonal allergies accelerate asthma, try an over-the-counter allergy medication. Allergy sufferers may also benefit from customized immunotherapy which may help reduce asthma attacks.
Many people control their asthma with prescribed steroid medications, which decrease inflammation in the lung’s airways. Your doctor may also prescribe a quick-acting inhaler. Also known as a rescue or emergency inhaler, it provides quick relief of asthma symptoms.
If you have severe asthma, bronchial thermoplasty may help. “It’s a safe, simple procedure that has given revolutionary results to patients who haven’t responded to traditional treatments,” Dr. Anthony says. Bronchial thermoplasty is a minimally invasive treatment option for severe asthma that can reduce frequency and severity of asthma attacks in just three outpatient visits.
Explore our step-by-step guides.