Wednesday, December 30, 2009

ABC: Asthma, Bikes, Coffee

For many of us, exertion is one of the triggers for asthma, but exercise is also one of the things that has seemed to keep me from having bad asthma! Striking a balance is the critical thing. If I don't exercise at all, my asthma becomes more of a problem. If I continue to push my physical limits when I feel asthma coming on, that's an asthma attack waiting to happen. There's a balance here: I don't have to fear asthma, but I do need to respect it.

A very quick explanation of what asthma is: imagine a raging case of eczema on your skin. Inflamed, dry, swollen, right? Now transfer that from your skin to the inside of your lungs. Asthma! And once this area becomes irritated, it's really hard to calm it back down. Breathing can become so difficult that it's all you can think about. So little oxygen is actually making it through your lungs that you have to stay in a resting position. It can get really scary, and when it does you'd do just about anything to make it go away. But even when it's not at crisis level, it can limit what you can do. Bottom line: you need to keep your lungs from becoming inflamed in the first place. It helps to have a good preventative medicine and an emergency inhaler. And of course you have to avoid the allergy triggers, whether they're environmental or over-exertion.

Exertion is not the problem, over-exertion is. It took me way too long to figure that out. In fact, regular exercise has been one of the best things I've done to control asthma. I believe exercise is the best thing I can do to prevent my asthma from coming back. I usually don't do so well in the sports that involve sprinting or highly physical competition. I don't pay attention to my own limits, I become over-exerted and then I pay the price.

Enter the bicycle: A perfect choice for most of us with asthma because it allows us have so much control over all of the variables: speed, intensity, distance, route, all are choices the rider gets to make. And with that control comes confidence. That's why you see so many cyclists who also have inhalers! We love riding. It's one of the few physical activities that doesn't automatically trigger our asthma. The more we can exercise without causing asthma, the more likely it is to keep asthma at bay!

And then there's coffee: who knew that scientists would find so many reasons to support my habit? Apparently there are studies that show that if you drink 12,000 cups of coffee a day like I do, your asthma goes into full blown remission or something like that. Of course you have to potty all the time, but heck, it's worth it if you can breathe! Coffee is also known to be a bronchodilator. In other words, if you forget your inhaler, just carry a pot of coffee around with you.

Asthma really sucks. But it doesn't have to have the last word.

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