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Asthma: why women need to take extra care

New data shows women over 55 are most at risk of dying from asthma.

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New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that women aged over 55 are most at risk of dying from asthma and need to take extra care in managing their condition.

There were 421 asthma-related deaths recorded in Australia last year, and 59% were women over 55 years, while women aged 75 years and older recorded nearly three times the number of deaths than men of the same age.1

According to the National Asthma Council Australia, asthma deaths are largely preventable, and the data highlights the need for people, especially women aged over 55 years to take steps to manage their condition.

Dr Jonathan Burdon AM, Chair of the National Asthma Council Australia and respiratory physician, said women do not realise the potential seriousness of the condition because it is so common.

“They may not make asthma care a priority, even though older women with asthma often have worse health outcomes,” said Dr Burdon.

“By getting their asthma under control, older women are more likely to be able to enjoy a full and active life.”

Dr Burdon said that there was no definitive answer as to why older women were more affected by asthma, but various studies suggest there are likely a combination of factors – diagnostic, biological, lifestyle, societal and environmental.

“We know that women have slightly higher prevalence rates for asthma, but we don’t have conclusive evidence as to why women are dying from asthma at two to three times the rates of men. This general trend is seen throughout the world,” said Dr Jonathan Burdon AM.

“Every death is a tragedy. Asthma can be controlled with asthma preventer and reliever medication and by following an up-to-date asthma action plan, prepared with your doctor.”

If you have asthma, the National Asthma Council Australia recommends you take these steps:

  • Don’t ignore or dismiss breathing problems
  • See your doctor for regular asthma check-ups
  • Follow an up-to-date asthma action plan
  • Ask your pharmacist to show you exactly how to use your inhaler correctly
  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist about other medicines you are taking
  • Quit smoking and avoid other people’s tobacco smoke
  • Each winter get your flu shot (it’s free for people over 65).

Learn about the importance of having an asthma management plan.

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics Report on Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 (asthma-related deaths).

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