Asthma patients in India spend more time watching TV, have high mental stress and spend less time sleeping and travelling, leading to obesity and an increase in asthma symptoms. These are the findings of a latest study on the relationship between lifestyle habits and incidence of asthma among Indians.
The study was conducted by the Department of Respiratory Allergy and Applied Immunology of the Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute, the University of Delhi and the Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Lady Hardinge Medical College and SSK Hospital. The published case-control study was performed for a period of one year, between 2014 and 2015, on over 215 asthma patients in various age groups.
The study is relevant because the link between lifestyle factors and asthma has been mostly derived from western literature. This report, however, studied the relationship between lifestyle factors and asthma in a representative Indian population.
Dr Raj Kumar, head of department, Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute, said: “Watching TV for long durations has been associated with unhealthy eating patterns (high caloric intake, decreased consumption of fruits and vegetables, low levels of physical activity and a higher body mass index. Overall, watching TV for hours promotes a sedentary lifestyle. On the contrary, asthma patients may stay indoors more often than non-asthmatic people, in order to avoid outdoor allergens or exercise. This may lead to increased TV watching, positive energy balance, and consequently increased obesity as well as decreased vitamin D status because of reduced exposure to sunlight. These factors, too, lead to increase in asthma symptoms since obesity and decreased vitamin status are inversely associated with asthma.”
Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), another global study, too, had concluded that children watching television for more than two hours daily were almost twice as likely to develop asthma by 11.5 years of age compared with those watching TV for 1-2 hours daily. The PANACEA (Physical Activity, Nutrition and Allergies in Children Examined in Athens) study had also documented the association between watching TV/ video games and asthma symptoms.
Dr Kumar said: “With growing evidence of increasing association of asthma and a sedentary lifestyle, it is imperative to address these factors through public health policies, as they may impact the prevalence of asthma in the Indian population.”
The latest study found the daily hours of sleep and hours of travel to be significantly lower in asthma patients. According to the study, these could be attributed to the disease itself or to the adoption of a sedentary lifestyle in asthma patients.
Dr Himanshu Garg, Head of Department, Respiratory and Critical care, Artemis Hospital, said: “House Dust Mites (HDM) are recognised as a common cause of asthma and are major inducers of allergic reactions such as wheezing. HDMs flourish in the stable environment of dwellings. Patients should avoid soft toys or using carpets and must use clean linen every day to control their condition. Yoga is an effective solution to help respiratory problems.”
Dr Kumar added, “This study can provide a basis to further longitudinal studies that would allow better understanding of the influence of lifestyle habits on the development of asthma in India. The small number of subjects enrolled was a limitation of our study. Also, the broader age group and cultural diversity may have led to differential lifestyle preferences, which may have influenced the results. Hence, a further large-scale population based study is required for assessing the effects of dietary patterns in Indian population.”