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Asthma in Phoenix and Tucson

Asthma is Prevalent in Arizona

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What is Asthma?

It is estimated that there are 20 million people in this country that have asthma. Asthma is a chronic lung disease, and people who have it will develop symptoms such as coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing.

Asthma Cities: Phoenix and Tucson at Top of the List

In a 2003 study conducted by statistician Bert Sperling, 25 cities were identified as "hot spot" locations for people with asthma. Tucson topped the list as the city in the nation with the most asthma incidences. Phoenix was close behind at number three. The asthma study was sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline which makes asthma medication.

The factors incorporated in determining the asthma "hot spot" cities, in order of their weighting, were:

  • asthma prevalence
  • asthma mortality
  • pollen scores
  • number of asthma specialists based on population
  • asthma medications prescribed
  • air pollution
  • smoking laws
  • climate
  • prevalence of tobacco use.

The ten cities with the highest asthma prevalence according to this study were:
1) Tucson, AZ
2) Kansas City, MO
3) Phoenix-Mesa, AZ
4) Fresno, CA
5) New York, NY
6) El Paso, TX
7) Albuquerque, NM
8) Indianapolis, IN
9) Mobile, AL
10) Tulsa, OK
11) Cincinnati, OH
12) Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

Is it true?

The question must be asked: why do the two major cities in Arizona seem to be the worst places for asthmatics? The answer is, they aren't. I imagine that it might be a question of cause vs. result. In other words, are people who live in Arizona more prone to get asthma, or are people with asthma more prone to come to Arizona?

In the days of smaller populations and cleaner air, people relocated to the Arizona desert in order to mitigate asthma symptoms. A possible reason for this ranking is historical in nature. Arizona's territorial government had a goal to make Arizona a health destination. Asthma treatment centers and attractive facilities sprung up, and asthmatics moved to the Arizona desert for relief. The fact that it was warm, dry and sunny made it that much more attractive. Asthmatics married, families expanded and a concentration of people with asthma in major Arizona cities grew.

So, although this study may be of interest to some, it doesn't mean that those cities high on the list are the worst places for asthmatics. It just means that there are many of them there. Remember, the highest weighted number used to create these survey results was incidences of asthma.

Another Asthma Study

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) conducts a study periodically of America's asthma capitals to call attention to "the most challenging places to live with asthma."

In 2006 the cities considered the worst for people who suffer from asthma, based on 12 factors, were:

1) Scranton, PA
2) Richmond, VA
3) Philadelphia, PA
4) Atlanta, GA
5) Milwaukee, WI
6) Cleveland, OH
7) Greensboro, NC
8) Youngstown, OH
9) Saint Louis, MO
10) Detroit, MI

Remember that #1 is the worst. Out of the 100 cities included in this research, the greater Phoenix area came in at #18 and Tucson came in at #86.

Asthma Triggers

Wherever they live, people can minimize the affects of asthma by eliminating things that trigger the symptoms. These asthma triggers may include:
  • Allergens or irritants - If a person's asthma is triggered by allergens, such as animal hair, airborne pollens such as hay fever, and house dust or molds, it is important to try to reduce exposure to those allergens. Some things are not allergens, but rather are irritants and can trigger asthma symptoms. Examples of these include tobacco smoke, strong odors or sprays, chalk dust and changing weather conditions.
  • Viral or sinus infections - Viral infections, such as colds, can trigger asthma. This especially impacts children.
  • Exercise - mouth breathing, exercising in cold, dry air, or prolonged, strenuous activity can trigger asthma attacks.
  • Reflux disease - this affects almost 90% of people with asthma
  • Medications or foods - Aspirin or ibuprofen are sometimes found to be triggers, as well as beta-blockers (used to treat heart disease, high blood pressure or migraine headaches). Food triggers affect children more than adults, and foods may include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.
  • Anxiety - anxiety and stress can cause fatigue, which may increase asthma symptoms.

Asthma Treatment

Asthma is a chronic disease, and it requires continuous management and appropriate treatment. Consult a medical professional if you have asthma or believe you might have asthma symptoms. For more information about asthma and its treatment, visit About Asthma.

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