Can your childhood experiences impact asthma?

Can Your Childhood Experiences Impact Asthma?

We all have both positive and negative experiences while growing up. These experiences help shape who we are; and are hopefully more positive than negative. Certain negative experiences known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are currently being studied to gauge the impact they have on chronic diseases, including asthma.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ACEs can have long-term effects on health (obesity, diabetes, depression, COPD, and heart disease), behavior (smoking, substance abuse), and life potential (graduation rates and missed work).

The original ACE Study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection.

  • Over 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members from Southern California receiving physical exams completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences and current health status and behaviors.1
  • Participants completed questionnaires that asked about children’s family experiences through age 18. Questions regarding emotional, physical and sexual abuse, household challenges such as violence, substance abuse, mental illness or divorce, and emotional or physical neglect.
  • Questionnaires are scored from 0 – 4 or more. The higher your score, the more likely you are to experience negative effects from these experiences.

Additional studies have shown how ACEs may increase your chances of being diagnosed with asthma. One study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that “increasing exposure to ACEs was associated with a higher percentage of children with asthma, compared with the overall study population and increasing odds of reporting lifetime asthma.2

The ACE quiz is available online and free. It’s important to remember that ACE scores do not necessarily predict your future. Your score does not take into consideration other factors such as your positive childhood experiences, your genes, or healthy habits such as a nutritious diet or exercise.

If your score is four or higher, what should you do?

  • Share your quiz score with your healthcare provider. Discuss how these experiences may or may not be impacting your mental, emotional or physical health.
  • Develop a plan for building resiliency. This plan can include talking with a counselor or therapist through your insurance or Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) at work.
  • Work with your physician or counselor to start practicing mindfulness through meditation or yoga. This can help you recover from negative experiences and stress. There are many smartphone apps that can get you started such as Headspace (meditation) and Yoga Glow (yoga).
  • Visit the website for more information on current research and studies on ACEs, along with support and resources.
  • Reach out to your support system; friends and family, or in-person or online support groups. Finding others with similar experiences to talk with can help build coping skills.

Do you think any childhood experiences contribute to your asthma? Share your thoughts in the comments!

If you know of a child that may be facing Adverse Childhood Experiences, visit the CDC’s website or the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation Adverse Childhood Experiences website for more information.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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