The role of genetics and other health conditions in asthma


Asthma is complex chronic respiratory condition without a cure. Research continues to explore a variety of causes for this condition, which makes breathing difficult and can impact your lifestyle and quality of life. MercyOne pulmonologist Shrey Velani, MD, feels genetics holds some answers on why a person develops asthma.

“Asthma is a result of interplay between genetic predisposition and environmental factors,” says Dr. Velani. “Maternal smoking during pregnancy, certain virus infections during early childhood, prematurity at birth are examples of environmental risk factors.”

Numerous research studies have shown that children who have a parent with asthma are 25% more likely to have it as well. If both parents have the condition, the risk rises to a 50% chance. Studies involving twins have shown asthma is more likely in children with a genetically close relative with the condition.

There is no one gene that is responsible for asthma. Instead there are several genes or gene complexes that can play a role when they interact with environmental factors.

An additional genetic factor of developing asthma has been gender. Studies have shown that asthma is more common in young boys while girls are more likely to develop the condition in puberty. By age 20 the chance of developing asthma is about the same. However at age 40 women are more likely to develop asthma as an adult and it is more likely to be severe.

With asthma, having other chronic health conditions can make the condition worse.

“Acid reflux disease, obesity and obstructive sleep apnea can make asthma even more challenging. In addition to asthma medications, developing a healthier lifestyle is important.”

Healthy lifestyle can certainly help control asthma. Losing excessive weight, staying active and exercising regularly is very important. Obesity is one of the risk factors for uncontrolled asthma. When people are overweight it can trigger acid reflux and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which also can impact respiratory health. In addition, refraining from cigarettes smoking, cannabis smoking and vaping will lead to better symptom control.

When thinking about asthma, people can also realize benefits by paying attention to their diet. The Mediterranean Diet has been linked to lower asthma symptoms. Consuming Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids has been shown to be beneficial in some studies.

Deficiencies in important vitamins and minerals can also have an impact on asthma. People who are Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E or Zinc deficient may experience increased asthma symptoms. Research on using supplements to make up for deficiencies have not been shown to improve symptom control.

Controlling your asthma takes an overall plan. Working with your primary care provider is an important first step in taking control of this condition.

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