Having Trouble Managing Your Asthma?

Six-time Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee has asthma and it never limited her accomplishments. We look into identifying triggers and managing the condition for the African American community.

BHM Fall 2023 Summit Session Recap

Did you know six-time Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee has asthma? She won three Olympic gold medals and set multiple world records. Jackie was named the ‘Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century’ by Sports Illustrated. Her asthma never limited her accomplishments and you shouldn’t either.

Other famous athletes who have asthma include NBA All-Star Dennis Rodman and NBA Hall-of-Famer Isaiah Thomas.

Black Americans bear a significant burden of having asthma. Dr. Hawkins provides expert insight into identifying triggers and managing the condition, highlighting the importance of education, empowerment, and knowledge.

What is asthma and how do we recognize it?

It’s very likely that you or someone you know has or has been impacted by asthma. It is a common disease that affects the lungs. Asthma is more common in the African American community and we have more severe types.

You have two lungs and their job is to get oxygen into the blood and tissues so the body can get rid of carbon dioxide. To better understand the impact asthma has on your body, think of your lungs as a tree. The tree trunk is your windpipe and the tree branches are the bronchioles that allow air into the lungs and blood.

If you have asthma, your “tree branches” become narrow from inflammation which can prevent air from circulating in your lungs properly. This is what causes your asthma symptoms. Some symptoms may include cough, mucus production, chest pain and pressure, and shortness of breath with rest or with physical activity.

When your symptoms flare up, this can result in an asthma exacerbation which can impact your normal daily activities. Asthma flares are one of the top reasons why people may miss school or work. Flares can also impact your emotional and mental well-being. You can help prevent flares by recognizing your triggers.

What are common asthma triggers?

Triggers are the things that make you more likely to experience a flare. Everyone is different so it’s important to recognize what your specific triggers are. Knowing your triggers can help you avoid them and use prevention as a treatment for your condition.

Some common triggers include airborne triggers such as air pollution, cold air, and seasonal changes. Common allergens that may also be triggers include trees, grass, pollen, dust mites, animals/pets, cockroaches, and household cleaners. Asthma can even be triggered by illnesses such as colds or viruses. These triggers can be difficult to control and avoid depending on your environment.

Some triggers that you may have a little more control over include exercise and emotional stressors such as stress, anxiety, trauma, and exposure to certain medications.

Identifying your triggers can be challenging and some triggers may be easily confused with other conditions such as seasonal allergies. Being aware of potential triggers is a great first step in taking action and understanding your specific triggers.

“Knowing your body allows you to control your asthma so it doesn’t control you.”

How has allergic asthma impacted the Black community?

Many of us have other high-risk health problems such as diabetes in addition to asthma. If your asthma flares, it may cause your other conditions to flare which can lead to poor long-term outcomes. It is important to understand your body and how asthma impacts you, especially as African Americans who are at higher risk for most chronic health conditions.

Take Action!

Dr. Hawkins provided useful and practical tips for managing your asthma.

  • Take control by educating yourself and others about asthma
  • Use what you learn to help take care of yourself and the ones you care about
  • Communicate your expectations to your provider
  • Collaborate with your healthcare team to develop an action plan
  • Help your provider by engaging in your care because medicine is not magic

Start the conversation. Advocate for yourself. Discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider, and collaborate to come up with a plan to manage your asthma.

This session was sponsored by Genentech

Presented by: 

Randy W. Hawkins MD 


On Key

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