As an adult, a diagnosis of asthma may take you by surprise. Sure, you recall your early symptoms: You coughed or felt short of breath when you exercised. At night, you might have wheezed slightly and woken up frequently. But you probably didn’t think to mention these early signs to your doctor. Asthma is something children get, you might have thought, or I have allergies, not asthma.
While three-quarters of people with asthma are diagnosed when they’re children, a growing number of adults are getting the news in their thirties, forties or fifties, according to Rob Tate, MD, a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health in Denver. While experts don’t know if that’s due to increased allergies, obesity or some interaction between the environment and our genes, the number of U.S. adults with asthma has doubled over the past 20 years to 20.4 million Americans.
Fortunately, asthma doesn’t have to take over your life. In fact, by following your medication plan, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and keeping an even-keeled, optimistic spirit (and, duh, not smoking), your life with asthma can be pretty normal. Breathe easy by taking a look at the lifestyle changes you can make to live well with asthma.