Asthma death toll rises

asthma reliever puffer on its side

Health professionals are being asked to review asthma management for the highest-risk group: women aged 65+

New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that women aged 65 and over are nearly three times more likely to die from asthma than men in the same group.

In 2016, 455 asthma-related deaths were recorded in Australia, comprising 312 females and 143 males. Of these, 257 women aged 65+ and 90 men in the same age group died from asthma.

The overall number was an increase on the figure of 421 deaths in 2015.

People aged 75 and over made up two-thirds of the deaths (300 of 455).

Compared to last year, there were 13 more deaths from asthma in NSW and 11 more deaths from asthma in Victoria, including those due to the epidemic thunderstorm asthma event on 21 November in Melbourne last year.

Dr Jonathan Burdon, Chair of the National Asthma Council Australia and respiratory physician, said the rising toll is a concern, especially for older women with asthma.

“The demographic statistics over the past few years have indicated that older women are consistently at the highest risk of dying from asthma,” he says.

“This could be due to a combination of lifestyle and contributing health factors.”

To improve health outcomes for older women with asthma Dr Burdon says he recommends that health professionals stress to their patients the importance of regular asthma care to help them stay well.

“Control of asthma may make it possible for older women to reduce the burden of other conditions including cardiac disease, diabetes and arthritis.

“We encourage health professionals to ensure their female patients have their asthma management plan reviewed by their GP or specialist at least once a year.”

Recent research has found that nearly 40% of people with asthma only use reliever medicines, and a quarter of them have been forced to seek last-minute treatment for a dangerous flare-up in their condition.

Professor Helen Reddel, lead author of this study, told the AJP at the time that pharmacists had a key role to play in spotting patients returning to buy reliever medication.

Dr Burdon said a focus on preventative treatments and innovations in asthma care, such as the National Asthma Council’s new Asthma Buddy mobile web site, will help Australians with asthma.

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