Healthcast: Asthma and the gender connection

Healthcast

Asthma affects more than 26 million Americans. Now new research shows that a certain group of people may have a higher chance of getting asthma than most.

Nancy Wickersham has suffered from asthma since she was eight years old. But in her 20’s, her symptoms became much worse.

“My reactions were a lot stronger and it seemed to react to more things, and as I got older there are more things I put on the list,” Nancy shared.

Cats, exercise, cold weather, seasonal allergies, are all things that trigger Nancy’s asthma symptoms. New research from Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins Universities has found that her hormones may be to blame for her asthma symptoms. Researchers drew blood samples from people with asthma and those without.

Dawn Newcomb, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University, says, “What we found was that women had more of these proteins that are made that are associated with asthma.”

So much so, that even women who don’t have asthma had more of these proteins than men without asthma. The reason?

“Testosterone acts on one set of pathways to decrease airway inflammation, where the ovarian hormones act on a different set of pathways to increase the airway inflammation,” Dr. Newcomb continued.

Making asthma symptoms even worse in women. The researchers also found that testosterone decreases the ability of inflammatory cells to multiply and divide and produce more cells in the airways. This research calls for a closer look at how therapies impact men and women differently, which can help women like Nancy find relief.

Interestingly, before puberty boys are more likely to have asthma than girls. In adulthood, it switches and adult women are two times more likely than men to have severe asthma.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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