How to Deal with Diabetes and Asthma? The Link and Treatment

Posted May 1, 2020 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines


There has not been enough research or studies done to determine the exact correlation between diabetes and asthma. However, it is believed that there is a connection between the two.

The sheer numbers of people affected by either diabetes or asthma worldwide should indicate that there is a large number of individuals suffering from both of these conditions together. According to the CDC, about 1 in 12 people, or 25 million Americans have asthma, and that number is increasing every year. The CDC also estimates that nearly 100 million Americans are living with diabetes or prediabetes.

So, how does someone deal with diabetes and asthma together? Here’s a quick summary before getting into more details.

How to Deal with Diabetes and Asthma? The exact connection between diabetes and asthma may not be fully known, but managing the two together can certainly be challenging. One of the first steps in treating the conditions together is avoiding foods that can trigger asthma symptoms and affect blood sugar negatively. Maintaining a healthy weight can also contribute to lessened symptoms of asthma and improved blood sugar levels.

Here is everything you need to know when it comes to dealing with the comorbidity of diabetes and asthma.

Overview of Diabetes and Asthma

Diabetes and AsthmaDiabetes is a chronic condition that is characterized by high blood sugar levels. There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, and the body can no longer create insulin. Lifestyle factors often cause type 2. With type 2 diabetes, the body cannot effectively use the insulin present (insulin resistance).

Both types of diabetes are severe conditions that can lead to life-threatening health complications. Therefore, either insulin or other diabetes medications are required to keep blood sugar levels controlled.

Asthma is a condition with the lungs that is characterized by a narrowing of airways. An asthma attack can cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Medical intervention is required for asthma to prevent severe asthma attacks that can be life-threatening. Various inhalers can help treat and control asthma symptoms.

There is not enough research present to determine the exact connection between diabetes and asthma. However, many believe that obesity may be a common denominator. According to the CDC, obesity rates may be higher among people with asthma. Obesity can lead to a worsening of asthma symptoms and poor control over your asthma. Excess weight around the chest and abdomen may put increased stress and constrict the lungs more, leading to asthma symptoms. Those that have excess fat tissue may also have inflammatory responses that can constrict airways even more. A study in 2016 stated that the majority of those with a severe asthma condition are obese.

Obesity is also a factor that can contribute to type 2 diabetes. Excess body fat can lead to insulin resistance. This is when the cells are not responsive to insulin, so the body cannot utilize glucose for energy as effectively. Thus, obesity could potentially be what leads to the comorbidity of diabetes and asthma.

Genetic predisposition may also play a role in the development of both diabetes and asthma. If you have a family history of either of these conditions, then you may be at an increased risk.

Regardless of the connection between diabetes and asthma, having both conditions together can make it more difficult to have control over your health. These conditions both have the unfortunate ability to cause increased stress and can have limiting factors. This can cause a worsening of either condition, making the problem of diabetes and asthma cyclical.

Tips for Controlling Diabetes and Asthma

Managing just one of these conditions can be extremely difficult and frustrating. Uncontrolled blood sugars caused by diabetes can significantly impact one’s mood, making them more irritable. Administering medications for diabetes and asthma can also be tedious and sometimes painful. The high cost for both diabetes and asthma medications can also make controlling these conditions together difficult.

You can deal with diabetes and asthma by adjusting your diet, losing weight, exercising, taking proper medication, and lowering your stress. Here are more details to help you deal with diabetes and asthma:


One of the first factors you should look at for improving your control over diabetes and asthma is to look at your diet. There are specific foods that can improve a person’s blood sugar control and lung function.

Eating meals that are large or meals that can cause gas can lead to chest tightness and cause asthma triggers. These larger meals can also lead to hyperglycemia in those with diabetes. Foods like these include fried foods or carbonated beverages with added sugar.

Some individuals with asthma may be deficient in vitamin A or vitamin D. Consuming foods that are higher in these vitamins can help improve lung function. This includes foods such as broccoli, carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, eggs, milk, and salmon. These foods are generally lower in carbohydrates, making them beneficial for those that have diabetes. By improving your lung function, you are putting less stress on your body, and in turn, allowing an increased opportunity for improved diabetes control.


Diabetes and AsthmaAs mentioned before, obesity and excess fat can be a significant contributing factor for diabetes and asthma. By getting control over your weight, you have a higher chance of getting control over these conditions.

Losing weight can help improve your insulin sensitivity, which will improve your blood sugar levels. This will also reduce any stress or constriction around your chest and abdomen, making it easier for you to breathe.


There are tremendous benefits that come with proper exercise. Exercise can reduce stress, promote weight loss, and increase insulin sensitivity. All of these aspects are great for those that are struggling with diabetes.

Exercise can also make your lungs stronger, improving your asthma condition. When it comes to exercising with diabetes and asthma, you may want to consider taking small steps. Jumping in and doing high-intensity workouts right out of the gate may be more harmful in the short-term. So, take small steps and gradually increase the intensity of your exercises.

Proper Medication

If you have diabetes and asthma, then you must ensure that you are taking the appropriate medication. Many people who have diabetes will require insulin therapy or other diabetes medications to control their blood sugar.

Patients that have asthma may require multiple inhaler medications. One may be a long-term inhaler that is used once or twice a day, and the other may be a rescue inhaler used in the event of sudden narrowing of the airways.

With chronic conditions such as these, patients often require medication to control their condition. There are various medicines and therapies that may vary in effectiveness, depending on the severity of the individual’s condition. Therefore, discuss with your doctor what medical intervention is required to treat diabetes and asthma together.

Stress Reduction

Stress can place a burden on individuals that is not just mental but is also physical. The stress placed on the body can cause the blood sugar levels to become extremely elevated, especially in a person with diabetes. This is due to hormones that the body produces when a person experiences some form of stress.

Stress can also be a major asthma trigger. Stress can cause a person to feel anxious and panicked, which can lead to a shortness of breath. So, by taking measures to reduce your stress, you can improve your blood sugar control and reduce your risk of triggering an asthma attack.

Diabetes and Inhaled Corticosteroids

Diabetes and Asthma

Many asthma patients are prescribed inhaled corticosteroids to treat their symptoms. However, inhaled corticosteroids may increase a person’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

In a study, a small number of patients that were prescribed inhaled corticosteroids required additional medication to help prevent high blood sugar levels. Some of those who already had high blood sugar, they required stronger doses of diabetes medication. This indicates a worsening of one’s diabetes condition with the use of inhaled corticosteroids.

The overall risk of developing diabetes with the use of inhaled corticosteroids is unlikely. However, there does appear to be a small correlation between the two. This does not mean that if you have been prescribed a corticosteroid that you shouldn’t take it. Discuss with your doctor the side effects of the medications and what symptoms you should be looking for.

In many cases, an inhaled corticosteroid is the best medical intervention to improve breathing and lung function. You and your doctor should ensure the benefits outweigh the risks.


We hope this article has given you a better understanding of how you can deal with diabetes and asthma together. For more medical advice, talk to your healthcare provider.

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