Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Asthma Health Center

Font Size

Health Risks for Elders With Asthma?

Study Shows Older People With Asthma Report More Health Woes
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 13, 2006 -- Older adults with asthma may be more likely than their asthma-free peers to report having other health problems including cancer, arthritis, heart disease, and stroke.

So says an Australian study published in Chest. The report doesn't blame asthma for those conditions. It also doesn't predict those health problems for everyone with asthma.

However, the findings may be good reason for younger people with asthma to take especially good care of their health, write the researchers.

They included Robert Adams, MD, of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Australia's University of Adelaide.

Snapshot of Asthma

By telephone, the researchers interviewed more than 7,600 adults living in three Australian states.

Adams' team randomly chose names from an electronic phone book, drawing residents from urban, rural, and remote areas.

Participants were asked if they had ever been told by a doctor that they had asthma, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, or osteoporosis (thinning bones). They were also asked how often, if at all, they had had problems performing their usual activities in the past month.

The data amounted to a snapshot of the patients' self-reported health. Participants weren't followed over time to see who got ill and who stayed healthy. Their medical records weren't checked, either.

Not Just Asthma

In the interviews, 834 participants reported an asthma diagnosis.

People with asthma were about twice as likely to report any of the other health problems compared to those without asthma. They were also more likely to report recent trouble handling their usual activities.

The patterns were mainly seen in older adults. Few people younger than 35 with asthma also had other health problems. Among people 55 and older, diabetes wasn't linked to asthma, the study shows.

Quality of life was lower for people age 35 and older with asthma and another chronic health problem, but not for younger adults.

Why the Pattern?

Does asthma make people more likely to develop other long-term health problems? Or is something else going on?

The study doesn't answer those questions. Cautioning that other studies haven't shown the same results, the researchers outline some possibilities.

People with asthma may seek medical care more often than others. If so, doctors would have more chances to diagnose health problems in those patients, note Adams and colleagues.

Smoking might be a common risk factor among asthma and other illnesses, they add. Age is another influence, since older people are generally more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer than younger people.

Young people with asthma may help their long-term health by taking good care of themselves, starting as soon as possible, write Adams and colleagues. Their study doesn't confirm that idea, but healthy lifestyles and good medical care are recommended for everyone, regardless of asthma.

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Lung and bronchial tube graphic
5 common triggers.
group jogging in park
Should you avoid fitness activities?
asthma inhaler
Learn about your options.
man feeling faint
What’s the difference?
Madison Wisconsin Capitol
woman wearing cpap mask
red wine pouring into glass
Woman holding inhaler
Man outdoors coughing
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
10 Worst Asthma Cities