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Possible Complications of Having Asthma and Osteoporosis

  • Synopsis: Published: 2014-05-09 - Information concerning people with Osteoporosis and Asthma and some of the problems they may face. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Thomas C. Weiss at Disabled World.

Main Document

"Due to the fact that exercise may trigger an asthma attack, many people with asthma avoid weight-bearing physical exercises that are known to strengthen bones."

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states that asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects more than 22 million people in America; almost 6 million of these people are children. Asthma is becoming increasingly more common and African-Americans are particularly at risk. For people who experience asthma, everyday things may trigger an attack. The triggers may include allergens, air pollution, emotional upset, infections, or even certain types of foods.

Common symptoms of asthma include:

  • Sweating
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in the chest

Children with asthma often times complain of an itchy upper chest, or may develop a dry cough. The symptoms might be the only signs of an asthma attack. Asthma of itself does not pose a threat to a person's bone health. Certain medications; however, used to treat asthma and some behaviors triggered by concern over the disease may have a negative impact on a person's skeleton.

Understanding Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition in which a person's bones become less dense and more likely to fracture. Fractures from osteoporosis may result in pain and disability. In America, more than 40 million people either already experience osteoporosis, or are at high risk of it due to low bone mass. The risk factors for developing osteoporosis include the following:

Risk Factors for Developing Osteoporosis
Smoking
Low calcium intake
A small frame or being thin
A family history of osteoporosis
Excessive consumption of alcohol
Unusual absence of menstrual periods
Being post-menopausal and having had early menopause
Prolonged use of certain medications such as ones used to treat asthma, lupus, seizures, and thyroid deficiencies

In many instances, osteoporosis can be prevented. It is known as a, 'silent,' disease because - if undetected, it may progress for a number of years without symptoms until the affected person experiences a fracture. Osteoporosis has been called a childhood disease with consequences in a person's senior years because building healthy bones while a person is young helps to prevent the disease and fractures later in their life. It is never too late; however, to adopt new habits for healthy bones.

How Asthma and Osteoporosis are Connected

Chart showing common asthma symptoms
Chart showing common asthma symptoms
People who experience asthma tend to also be at an increased risk for osteoporosis, particularly in their spine, for a number of reasons. Anti-inflammatory medications referred to as, 'glucocorticoids,' are commonly prescribed to treat asthma. When people take these medications orally, the medications may decrease calcium absorbed from food, increase calcium lost from the kidneys, as well as decrease bone formation. Dosages of more than 7.5 milligrams per day have the potential to cause significant bone loss, especially during the first year a person takes them. Corticosteroids also interfere with the production of sex hormones in women and men, something that can contribute to bone loss, and may cause muscle weakness - something that may increase the risk of falls and fractures due to falls.

Many people with asthma believe that milk and other types of dairy products trigger asthma attacks. The evidence shows that this is only likely to be true if a person also experiences an allergy to dairy products. Unnecessary avoidance of calcium-rich dairy products may be particularly damaging for children with asthma who need calcium to build strong bones.

Due to the fact that exercise may trigger an asthma attack, many people with asthma avoid weight-bearing physical exercises that are known to strengthen bones. People who remain physically active many times choose swimming as an exercise of choice because it is less likely than other types of activities to trigger an asthma attack. Unfortunately, swimming does not have the same beneficial impact on a person's bone health as weight-bearing exercises. Weight-bearing exercises include:

  • Jogging
  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Aerobics
  • Volleyball
  • Basketball
  • Racquet sports
  • Weight training

Strategies for Managing Osteoporosis

Strategies to prevent and treat osteoporosis in people with asthma are not significantly different from ones used to treat people without asthma. What follows are strategies for management of osteoporosis.

Reduce Exposure to Asthma Triggers: Reducing exposure to asthma triggers such as allergens and irritants may help to decrease a person's reliance on glucocorticoid medication. Avoiding people who have colds or other forms of respiratory infections and minimizing emotional stress can also be important.

Pursuit of a Healthy Lifestyle: Smoking is bad for a person's bones, heart, and lungs. Women who smoke tend to go through menopause sooner, triggering earlier loss of bone. People who smoke also may absorb less calcium from their diets. Alcohol can also affect a person's bone health in a negative way. People who drink heavily are more prone to bone loss and fractures because of poor nutrition and a greater risk of falling.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays an important role in the absorption of calcium and a person's bone health. Food sources of vitamin D include saltwater fish, egg yolks, and liver. A number of people obtain enough vitamin D from eating fortified foods. Others, especially people who are older, use sunscreen, or live in northern climates, might require vitamin D supplements to achieve the recommended intake of 600-800 International Units (IU) per day.

Bone Density Test: A, 'bone mineral density (BMD),' test measures a person's bone density at different sites of their body. The test is both safe and painless and can detect osteoporosis before the person experiences a fracture and may predict their chances of future fractures. People with asthma, especially people receiving glucocorticoid therapy for 2 months or more, should discuss with their doctors whether they may be candidates for a BMD test.

Exercise: Like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. The best type of activity for your bones is weight-bearing exercise that forces you to work against gravity. Some examples include climbing stairs, walking, dancing, or weight training. Regular exercise such as walking can help to prevent bone loss and provide a number of additional health benefits. People who experience exercise induces asthma should exercise in an environmentally controlled facility and participate in activities that fit their personal limitations. They might also use medication as needed to help them to exercise.

Nutrition: A well-balanced diet that is rich in calcium and vitamin D is important for bones that are healthy. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, as well as foods and beverages that are calcium-fortified. Supplements might help to ensure that a person's calcium requirement is met each day, particularly in people with a proven milk or dairy allergy. The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily calcium intake of 1,000 milligrams for women and men up to age 50. Women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 70 should increase their intake of calcium to 1,200 milligrams each day.

Chart showing medications used to prevent and treat osteoporosis
Chart showing medications used to prevent and treat osteoporosis
Medication: Like asthma, osteoporosis is a disease that has no cure unfortunately. There are medications; however, available to prevent and treat osteoporosis - to include:
  • Calcitonin
  • Bisphosphonates
  • Estrogen therapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Parathyroid hormone
  • RANK ligand (RANKL) inhibitor
  • Estrogen agonists/antagonists

Due to their effectiveness in controlling asthma with fewer side-effects, inhaled glucocorticoids are preferred to oral types of the medication. Bone loss tends to increase with increased glucocorticoid doses and length of use. The lowest possible does for the shortest period of time that controls a person's asthma symptoms is therefore recommended.

Asthma Linked to Bone Loss in Study
www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_146114.html

Advice From Your Allergist on Osteoporosis
www.acaai.org/allergist/asthma/conditions/osteoporosis-and-asthma/Pages/default.aspx

Asthma and Osteoporosis
www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/healthy/asthma.html



Related:

  1. Exercise can Forestall Osteoporosis - Medical College of Georgia - (Apr 26, 2010)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/health/aging/osteoporosis/exercise-osteoporosis.php
  2. Why Does Getting the Flu Trigger Asthma - Children's Hospital Boston - (May 29, 2011)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/health/respiratory/asthma/trigger.php
  3. Bone Scanning Program Alerts Women To Dangers Of Osteoporosis - UAE - (May 29, 2011)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/health/aging/osteoporosis/bone-scan.php



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