Updated 26 October 2017

Your weight and vices can affect your asthma risk

Underweight or obese women who smoke or drink may have a higher risk of developing asthma, research suggests.

A recent study analysed data from about 175,000 people between the ages of 18 and 44 in 51 countries and found that underweight or obese women who drank and smoked were twice as likely to have asthma as those with a healthy weight who didn't drink or smoke.

Underweight or obese women who smoked and drank were also two to three times more likely to have wheezing, according to the study published in the journal BMJ Open Respiratory Research. But the study did not prove that these factors cause asthma, it only showed an association.

See: What happens during an asthma attack? (Warning, graphic)

"Although individual physical and behavioural factors associated with asthma have been examined before, people are often exposed to multiple risk factors, so it's important we understand the combined impact," lead author Jayadeep Patra said in a news release from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. Patra is an epidemiologist in the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael's.

"Our research found overall increased risk for wheezing and asthma in both men and women, but the magnitude of the combined effects from low or high BMI, smoking and drinking was consistently higher among women than men," Patra said.

People with asthma have trouble breathing due to spasms in the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. It affects 334 million people worldwide.

It is more prevalent in low- and middle-income countries, possibly due to a larger number of risk factors, including widespread indoor use of solid fuels such as charcoal, wood or dung for cooking, Patra said. These fuels increase the risk of lung and heart problems.

Read more:

Are asthma symptoms stressing your teen out?

Child asthma rates leveling off but not for poor kids

Poverty may affect the outcome of asthma treatment

Image:Lungs anatomy from iStock


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Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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