The findings of a recent study suggests that people who had moderate to severe asthma as children are over 17% more likely to develop COPD when they are over the age of 50. This is something that many experts have suspected for a while now. They think this because asthma has a way of “remodeling” the inner walls of the lungs with inflammation over time, so badly that the airways become more and more constricted. They believe that this constriction can lead to COPD.
If you have asthma and you smoke, you are also that much more likely to develop COPD. At least 25% of long term smokers will develop COPD, so just add that statistic onto your likelihood if you have asthma.
The recent study followed those with childhood asthma into their later years and took into account other variables, both lifestyle and health related. If your asthma is severe or untreated, you already have a decreased lung function. Even in healthy people, lung function starts to decline with age. What's worse – if you've been using the drugs that treat COPD for your asthma over the years, they will become less effective for you later on. Bronchodilators and inflammation reducing steroids are both used to treat asthma and COPD.
COPD has also been misdiagnosed as asthma because the symptoms are so similar, and because inadequate testing is often done because of limited or no medical insurance coverage. A spirometry test should be done to properly diagnose COPD, as well as an arterial blood gas test to see just how long the blood oxygen level is.
Unfortunately, even with the results of this study, experts still aren't sure how to prevent childhood asthma from developing into emphysema or chronic bronchitis. They can only go on what they already know to be playing factors in the development of COPD, so there aren't more risks piled on top of what can't be prevented, such as asthma.
Keeping away from air pollution, indoor and outdoor will be a big help and at least take away a risk factor that can be somewhat helped. Not smoking around someone with asthma, and the asthmatic not smoking themselves will help prevent it even more. It's estimated that 1 in 5 children with asthma will smoke later in life, despite their condition.
One almost sure-fire way of helping to improve lung function is to stay physically active and exercise regularly by doing anything that makes the lungs work harder, such as jogging or riding a bike. Asthmatic children should be encouraged to exercise as much as possible with the guidance of a doctor and their rescue inhaler handy in case they need it.
There are some foods that can be eaten to help improve lung function, such as apples, fish, red bell peppers and wine. These foods contain nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and C beta carotene and antioxidants that have been known to build and protect healthy cells in the body and actually increase lung function.