Your conditions triggers, severity and state (controlled or uncontrolled) will guide what type of management plan you need. However, no matter what is in your plan, monitoring it, and your condition, is essential to ensure you get the right treatment.
If you are recently diagnosed with asthma or any chronic lung disease, you are probably worried about the progression of your condition. Well, this series is built to give you the information you need to build a lasting and effective program.
How Can You Slow the Progression of Asthma?
There are a number of basic things that you can do to slow the progression. Taking your medication, avoiding triggers, and living a healthy lifestyle are all practical ways to help. However, most of these rely on you tracking the aspect to ensure you: don’t take too much medication, identify the triggers that affect you, get enough sleep or do enough steps. In this guide, we focus on how to start tracking three aspects:
- Symptoms: to identify those triggers
- Lung Function: to track the effectiveness of your medication
- Quality of Life: to give you an idea of how your condition is progressing
The progression of asthma is assessed by looking at a number of different factors. However, when it comes to those factors that you can assess, the most important are a worsening of symptoms, lung function, and quality of life. So, it’s very important you monitor these three aspects.
Monitoring Your Symptoms
Monitoring your symptoms is one of the primary ways to understand and keep on top of your condition. In the case of asthma, understanding the signs of a poorly controlled state is really important. These include wheezing, shortness of breath, cough, and chest tightness.
💡 If you notice that any of these symptoms become persistent, you should consult your doctor to review your asthma management plan to get you controlled
One of the common reasons for having symptoms is that you have come into contact with one of your triggers. Triggers can take many forms: stress, poor air quality, animal hairs… there are many of them out there. If you are recently diagnosed, it can be hard to know what it might be. One way to try and identify them is for you to track when you experience them (day + time) and note anything that might have happened that day (maybe you went to a new place or visited your friend's house that just got a dog). You can keep it simple, use a pen and paper to keep track and you might be surprised what you find.
💡 There are also various digital tools that you can use to help you track and find patterns around your symptoms.
Monitoring Your Lung Function
Lung function is a term that defines a number of different measurements. Two of the most common measurements are Peak Flow and FEV1. Your lung function can be a good indicator of how your condition’s progressing. Your lung function is related to your age, weight, height, condition, and ethnicity. As a person gets older, it naturally starts to decline. However, it can also decline when your condition is ‘flaring up’ or if your condition is uncontrolled for a long period of time. Tracking your lung function will not itself prevent your condition from getting worse, but it will give you an indication as to how well controlled you have your condition and if something needs to be done to get it under control.
There are a number of ways to measure your lung function:
- You can visit/ask your doctor who will use a spirometry machine. It's a device reserved for checking the functioning of your lungs.
- You can purchase a peak flow meter that you can assess your lung function peak flow at home.
- You can purchase a digital spirometer to assess your full lung function at home.
💡 Don't know what your Peak Flow should be? why not calculate it here.
Monitoring Your Quality of Life
Quality of life can be affected by so many things: health, finances, and relationships to name just a few. With health, we often have ups and downs so a good way to track this is to look at time periods that are stretched out over a year or more. A practical way to assess this is to regularly ask. At the end of every 12 months, you can review the answers that you have logged and compare them with previous years. An example question set that you can use:
- “How has my health affected my work in the last _ months”
- “How has my health affected my social life in the last _ months”
- “How has my health affected my mood in the last _ months”
- “How has my health affected my exercise program in the last _ months”
💡 Another option is to take an ACT score test. This test has been clinically validated and gives you an indicator as to how well controlled you have your asthma or COPD.
Monitoring everything, and all the time, is hard - it requires a lot of work. However, by structuring a monitoring program that you can follow, you will be more educated about how well you are managing your condition, and be able to have fruitful discussions with your doctor (and the data to back it up), which you will profit from through a management program that works for you.