Asthma : Lifestyle Changes Lead to Weight Loss and Better Asthma Control

Story by Harry Jackson Jr.

Deloris Brown, 46, said the most important part of her losing more than 70 pounds was making the decision.

She had some help, though. She wrestled with pre-diabetes, asthma and an autoimmune disease that often saw her in an emergency room as her immune system turned on her.

But that's over, now, she said.

"I can't remember when I last used my inhaler," Brown said. "And I'm saving money because I haven't had to buy the asthma medicine -- and that was $140 for 30 pills."

She put on pounds over the years because of her diet, which included a lot of stress eating and fried food, and the Prednisone, a drug she took for asthma and to fight off the autoimmune reactions. Weight gain and high blood glucose levels are a side effect of the drug.

Brown used a weight-loss method that scares a lot of people: She changed her diet, ate less and exercises nearly every day.

Brown decided in mid-2011 to lose weight, when she saw the first announcement for a new program called "Tread the Med" at the Washington University School of Medicine where Brown works.

"I'd been wanting to lose weight, so (friends and co-worker) formed a team to participate," she said. The program assigned participants to walk 10,000 steps a day by walking around the hospital campus and other walking.

Tread the Med was "an initiative to get employees up and walking so they could have exercise in their daily lives," said Betsy Snyder, wellness coordinator for Washington University School of Medicine. "We chose walking because so many people can do it and it's so easy to do, the benefits are numerous and it leads to a less stressful walk."

Each participant gets a pedometer with a goal of 10,000 steps per day for 100 days, Snyder said. People can build up to the goal while some are able to do 10,000 steps, she said.

"The purpose was that if you walk or do anything for 100 days, it becomes a habit," she said. "Hopefully people continue walking after the program."

That's what Brown did. She joined the first session more than a year ago, then joined the second session.

During that second session, though, she had an asthma attack that set off the autoimmune disease. She had hives, rashes and other things that came with allergy attacks plus the asthma, she said.

"I knew then I had to lose weight, something to get my health under control," she said.

She approached a childhood friend, Briant K. Mitchell, who ran a fitness center in Jamestown Mall. "She came to me crying," he said. "I told her if she follows my program, she'll get rid of the weight and be healthier."

Mitchell says he caters mainly to people whose health depends on dropping weight. "Most of my clients have diabetes or pre-diabetes and hypertension," he said. He and two physicians who were clients of his, created the eating program that Brown adopted.

"It's the right amount of carbohydrates, nutritious food, six small meals a day," he said, "and exercise for an hour four times a week."

That was last spring. By the end of summer, she was missing 70 pounds. More importantly, her health numbers had improved and her asthma and autoimmune symptoms had vanished.

She said she might have weighed more than 229 pounds. "But that was the first time she weighed."

She still works out with Mitchell and was in the second round of the Tread to Med program when she joined the fitness program. She's in the third session now.

Each day she walks around the medical school with friends and co-workers. "That's what's good about this," she said. "People asked how I did it and then they joined me and started walking too."

The best part is that she feels better, she said. "I can do more, I have more energy and I feel so much better," she said.

"My daughter told me when I lost the weight, Mama, I can get my arms around you now."

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