Excess weight worsens the prognosis of respiratory diseases: maintaining an adequate weight and eating a healthy diet helps us breathe better
For anyone, it is essential to maintain a healthy weight (healthy, not ideal weight ), but for respiratory patients more, since alterations in their body composition constitute a marker of severity and worsen the prognosis of the disease. Both being overweight and underweight is detrimental. In this article, we will explain what are the most common respiratory disorders related to obesity and low weight and what implications this factor has on health.
Obesity: an epidemic in people with respiratory diseases
Obesity is one of the most common health problems and is recognized as a cardiovascular risk factor, although little attention is paid to it when it is associated with respiratory disease, despite its importance. Obesity affects the respiratory system depending on age, level of obesity, and distribution of body fat.
To breathe, the overweight person exerts excessive effort by having to mobilize a heavier rib cage (chest). Your diaphragm, due to the fat accumulated in the abdomen that presses on it, cannot move properly during breathing. All this causes the breaths to be shallow, so not enough air enters the lungs and does not reach the alveoli, which is where gas exchange occurs, a fundamental part of respiration. People with obesity, therefore, will have less oxygen in their blood, but more carbon dioxide (CO2), leading to serious respiratory problems, such as respiratory failure.
The most frequent symptoms of obesity on breathing are the following:
- Drowning sensation, which can occur with minimal effort.
- State of confusion.
- Loss of consciousness, in the most serious cases.
Excess weight has been linked to an increase in asthma and is a health problem associated with respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome (SAHS).
Excess weight and asthma, a strong relationship
The latest studies indicate that asthma cases increase in proportion to BMI (body mass index). Obesity causes a decrease in the amount of air that can enter and leave the lungs and favors the closure of the airways, which leads to dyspnea, the feeling of suffocation so characteristic of asthma. Other theories suggest that excess fatty tissue produces cytokines, proteins that inflame the airways, which encourages their closure in asthma sufferers.
Obesity and sleep problems
Apnea-hypopnea obstructive sleep (SAHS) is characterized by the occurrence of repeated episodes of total or partial closure of the upper airway that prevents the passage of air through it, causing snoring and apnea. The apneas, periods in which breathing is interrupted for more than 10 seconds, cause the person to wake up several times making restful sleep and not be sleepy throughout the day.
Obesity is the main risk factor for this disease, affecting approximately 50% of men and 8% of women with obesity. When the weight drops, SAHS improves, even being cured. Losing weight requires a change in diet and lifestyle, choosing healthy foods, and doing more physical exercise.
How low weight influences your breathing
The low weight (BMI <18.5) also is present between 20-40% of people suffering from serious respiratory disease, so it is also necessary to mention it.
If we take into account that the muscles responsible for breathing, together with the heart, are the only ones that do not rest for a moment throughout our lives and that breathing consumes between 2 and 3% of the total energy used by the organism in the day today, we can understand that it is necessary to have an adequate calorie intake so that breathing is not affected. When we have a respiratory disease, breathing will be, in itself, much more expensive, so maintaining an adequate weight is essential.
- Do you burn the calories you eat?
In COPD, having a BMI <21 is associated with a poor prognosis of the disease. In these cases, a diet rich in energy foods is recommended and the use of nutritional supplements such as amino acids, vitamins, or molecules with high energy capacity is common to have bodyweight and muscle mass within acceptable limits. Training, together with the use of nutritional supplements, is undoubtedly the best treatment to increase the mass and function of the muscles and thus improve the quality of life of the patient.