Older women are nearly three times more likely to die from asthma than men of the same age, according to the latest asthma mortality data.
According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 455 asthma-related deaths (312 females, 143 males) were recorded in Australia during 2016, up slightly from 421 in 2015.
People 75 years and older made up two-thirds of the deaths.
Respiratory physician and chair of the National Asthma Council Dr Jonathon Burdon told the limbic the fact that asthma was more common in women (13%) than men (9%) did not explain the difference in mortality.
He said hormonal issues and lifestyle factors were likely contributors.
“We think women tend to put themselves last and that may be partly putting their medication last.”
Dr Burdon said the asthma mortality rate increased for people over 55 years, and again from 75 years.
“The older age group is at a high risk of dying of asthma and for that reason we should be monitoring their asthma much more carefully.”
“Some time should be spent communicating with patients and explaining the importance of taking regular treatment as prescribed, not just saying ‘Here’s your script’.”
He said only about 40% of people prescribed preventive medications for their asthma actually take it on a regular basis.
Doctors should point out the risks of non-compliance such as more hospital admissions, shortness of breathe and inactivity.
“If they don’t take their preventers, they are much more likely to have acute attacks of asthma and potentially fall into the group that die from asthma.”
He added that older people tended to develop other conditions as well which may impact on their compliance regarding asthma medications.
“So there is a mixture of things going on, we get more forgetful and I think there is also a resistance to taking medications, particularly as the best medications are corticosteroids.”
The National Asthma Council has recently launched Asthma Buddy – a mobile-only website as a convenient way for patients to keep track of their asthma action plan.
They also recommend doctors screen for depression in older women, given its strong association with asthma, and encourage weight loss in women who are overweight or obese.