Asthma Control: Know Your Score (cont.)

The reality is that does not have to be the norm. Until we get people who have asthma to understand that normal breathing is possible, then there's going to always be the lack of communication because the assumption is that this is normal because "I'm an asthmatic."

"One of the most important things patients can do is understand the importance of preventer or controller medication."

MODERATOR:
Jerome, what did you change about how you dealt with your asthma?

BETTIS:
After the incident I got educated about asthma, understood what asthma was and what it did. At that point I got with my doctor and we developed a game plan. That's something that I deal with daily in terms of the medicine, but also I do check with my doctor fairly regularly about where the asthma is and making sure it is under control as each test comes in.

EDELMAN:
One of the most important things patients can do is understand the importance of preventer or controller medication. Asthma is an inflammatory disease -- the airways of the lungs are inflamed. If they are inflamed a lot, attacks come on easily. If they are inflamed just a little bit, it's hard for triggers to cause attacks. The inflammation is controlled by anti-inflammatory drugs, usually inhaled, which we call controller or preventer medications. Too many people either don't use them or stop using them when they are feeling well despite the fact that their doctors recommend that they take them continually.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Jerome, how are you controlling your asthma now? What medications do you take?

BETTIS:
I take Advair.

MODERATOR:
Dr. Edelman, is that a controller medicine?

EDELMAN:
Advair is a combination of two medications. There is an anti-inflammatory that reduces the inflammation and a long-acting bronchodilator that relaxes the muscles of the airways for long periods of time.

MODERATOR:
What are the common controller meds?

EDELMAN:
The controller meds are anti-inflammatories, and for the most part these are inhaled corticosteroids. Now, the word steroids should not upset people; they are totally different from the performance-enhancing steroids in the newspapers recently.

There are some other medications out there that also function as controller medications; one is chromalin sodium and there are two or three medications that work differently on the inflammatory system, called the leukotriene modifiers.

MODERATOR:
Well, anyone who has seen "The Bus" play knows that Jerome doesn't need performance-enhancing drugs.

EDELMAN:
That's right, and I have to make it clear: The American Lung Association is not promising people that they will become strong professional athletes like Jerome Bettis. But we are promising people that many of them -- most of them -- can perform better.

"It seems that the more overweight people are, in general, the worse their asthma is."

MEMBER QUESTION:
Jerome, how does asthma affect you playing football? Are you worried about having another big attack while practicing or playing? Go Steelers!

BETTIS:
No, I don't worry about the asthma because it's under control. But I do understand there are limitations that I have, and I'm very conscious of that. The doctors and the trainers know that I am asthmatic and so we deal with it accordingly.

EDELMAN:
It's important to point out, and the American Lung Association tries to point this out often, that although Jerome Bettis is a great example of what you can do to control the asthma, he is not the only one. The last time the survey was done, it turned out that about 10% of Olympic athletes had asthma of some form or other. All of them learned to control their asthma to the point where they could become world class athletes.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Dr. Edelman, does weight affect asthma? I'm thinking of how big football players are.

EDELMAN:
That's a very interesting question. There has been a lot of scientific investigation about the effect of weight and asthma, and it turns out the answer is yes. It seems that the more overweight people are, in general, the worse their asthma is. In some cases, some doctors have said being overweight may cause asthma, but we're not clear about that. There's no question though that gaining extra pounds makes asthma worse.

Now, Jerome Bettis may be different because his big frame is muscle and not fat and that may make a difference. But for those of us who put on pounds through fat, it tends to make our asthma worse and harder to control.



STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!