Obesity Tied to Higher Asthma Prevalence in Women

Megan Brooks

March 17, 2016

Obese women are more apt to suffer from asthma than their leaner peers, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

"Several studies have shown that among adults, obesity is associated with an increased risk of asthma diagnosis, more frequent asthma-related health care use, and greater symptom or severity burden," Lara Akinbami, MD, and Cheryl Fryar, MSPH, from the NCHS, note in their March 16 data brief.

They used data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys to gauge current asthma prevalence by weight status among US adults aged 20 years and older.

From the period 2011-2014, current asthma prevalence was 8.8% among adults. It was higher among adults with obesity (11.1%) relative to adults of normal weight (7.1%) and adults who were overweight (7.8%).

"This pattern was consistent across most demographic subgroups, except among men, for whom no statistically significant difference in current asthma prevalence by weight status was observed," the authors say.

Asthma was more prevalent in obese women (14.6%) than in women of normal weight (7.9%) and overweight women (9.1%). Among men, current asthma prevalence was 7.1%, 6.7%, and 6.1% for obese, overweight, and normal weight categories, respectively.

For persons of all races and for persons of Hispanic origin, asthma prevalence was higher among the obese than among those of normal weight. Asthma prevalence was 10.9% for obese non-Hispanic whites vs 8.1% for their peers of normal weight. Among non-Hispanic blacks, asthma prevalence was 13.6%, 7.5%, and 6.6% in the obese, overweight, and normal weight categories, respectively. For Hispanics, the corresponding figures were 9.6%, 4.0%, and 5.7%, respectively.

Across all adult age groups, asthma prevalence was significantly higher among obese adults compared with the lower-weight groups, the authors say. However, they say an increasing trend in asthma prevalence as weight increased was seen "most clearly" in persons aged 60 years and older.

The American Thoracic Society recently held a workshop on obesity and asthma, which concluded that obesity is a "major risk factor for asthma, and that obesity-related asthma is likely different from other types of asthma (eg, allergic, occupational, exercise-induced, nocturnal, aspirin-sensitive, and severe asthma)," Dr Akinbami and Fryar note in their brief.

Aside from considerations of weight, overall current prevalence of asthma among US adults increased from 7.1% in the period 2001-2002 to 9.2% in 2013-2014, the authors note in their brief. And according to the CDC, nearly 65% of adults with current asthma have persistent asthma; 35% have intermittent asthma.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

CDC. NCHS Data Brief. Published online March 16, 2016. Full text

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