Can losing weight help your asthma?

If you're overweight, even losing a small amount of weight could make a big difference to your asthma.

Health advice > Living with asthma

“For both adults and children asthma is harder to control if you’re overweight or obese. You’re more likely to have asthma symptoms and asthma attacks. And if you do have an attack it could be more severe,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP.

What counts as overweight?

Lose weight to improve asthma symptoms

How to get started on losing some weight

What counts as overweight?

Your BMI (Body Mass Index) can tell you if you’re a healthy weight for your height. You can work out yours by using the NHS BMI healthy weight calculator.

For most adults a score of over 25 shows you’re above a healthy weight range for your height.

But your BMI is only one indicator of your weight. You may be in the overweight range but still be fit and healthy. And it’s important not to worry too much if you work yours out and find yourself just over the healthy weight range for you.  

Lose weight to improve asthma symptoms

There’s evidence to show that if you lose excess weight there are benefits for your asthma.

And just eating healthily, and being a bit more active, has health benefits overall too.

You’ll notice asthma symptoms improving

That means you could feel less breathless, less wheezy, and be coughing less. And feel more able to get on with things you want to do in life.

You’ll also lower your risk of an asthma attack and needing to go to hospital because of your asthma.

Your asthma should be easier to control

You should see more benefits from your preventer medicine, keeping the inflammation down in your airways and not reacting to your triggers so much.

You may not need to use your reliever inhaler so often to deal with symptoms like coughing, wheezing and a tight chest.

“You can talk about any improvements you’ve noticed at your annual asthma review,” says Dr Andy.

“And your GP or asthma nurse can update your action plan if the dose of your medicines can be changed and see if your peak flow has improved.”

You could see other health benefits too

Losing weight brings with it lots of benefits for your general health too, including lower risk of other long-term conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

It can help you exercise more easily, which in turn helps you keep the weight down, and get fitter.

“Losing some weight also means you’re less at risk of other conditions like acid reflux and sleep apnoea, that can make asthma worse,” says Dr Andy.

“And it could mean you respond better to the flu vaccine, which is good news because flu and other viral infections are a top asthma trigger.”

How to get started on losing some weight

Starting on a diet and exercise plan to lose weight can feel like a big deal. And it does take some effort and commitment to lose weight and keep to a healthy weight.

If you’re taking steroid tablets long term to control your asthma because your asthma is severe or difficult to control, you might find it harder still to lose weight.

Steroid tablets can increase appetite for some people. And it’s harder to exercise if you’re struggling to manage your asthma symptoms.

But there’s lots of support around to help you get to a more healthy weight, including your GP or specialist, and groups, or exercise programmes to help keep you motivated. Get inspired by the we are undefeatable campaign. 

Even just being mindful about what you eat, whether it’s smaller portion sizes or fewer sugary or fatty foods, and building in some more activity into your day, can make a difference.

It can help to break it down into steps:  

  1. Start by writing a list of reasons why you want to lose weight, like wanting to help your asthma, feeling less breathless. And put it where you can see it every day.

  2. Find out what kind of weight loss plan you like. Experts agree that for most people the best way to lose weight is with both diet and exercise. The NHS website has lots of helpful information including a 12-week diet and exercise plan to help you lose weight safely.
  3. See your GP or asthma nurse. They can signpost you to local weight loss and exercise groups and talk to you about losing weight and exercising safely. They can also help you make a decision about how much weight you’d like to lose to see the benefits. Together you can make losing weight part of your asthma treatment plan.
  4. Get more tips and advice to help you stay motivated and keep the weight off

Contact our Asthma UK Helpline for more support

You can call our asthma nurses on 0300 222 5800 (Monday - Friday, 9am-5pm) if you want to talk through how losing weight can help you manage your asthma symptoms better. 

Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.


Last updated November 2019

Next review due November 2022

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