According to the Mayo Clinic, asthma is defined as a condition through which the airways narrow, swell, and possibly produce mucus, triggering difficulty breathing. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 12 or 25 million people in the United States are living with the lung disease and that number continues to climb. And though a large percentage of those with asthma developed it during childhood, a growing number of adults are also developing the condition. Among the people diagnosed with adult asthma is television personality Nina Parker.
The E! Nightly Pop host first began to notice changes in her breathing, which she initially brushed off. "I started to have different breathing [challenges]," Parker tells EBONY. "Initially, I just chalked it up to getting older or thinking, 'Maybe it was the burrito I had for lunch.' I just started to make these excuses, but I noticed that I'd hear myself breathing and it sounded different."
This experience paired with a frightening episode that took place over the holiday season caused the recent fashion designer to take action by seeking medical attention for what she initially believed was an ulcer. "Eventually, I decided to see a doctor because something just didn't quite feel right and that's when I got the diagnosis after getting some chest X-rays," says Parker.
Initially, the diagnosis triggered a self-limiting mindset within the California native and it quickly began to impact her social life, even resulting in some embarrassment.
"I thought that I couldn't do physical activity. I live in LA and there's a lot of hiking here. That's part of the LA culture. I started to limit myself and telling people, 'No, I can't go on these things with you.' I was getting sad about not being included," she went on. "I was embarrassed to say I have asthma."
Since living with asthma was totally new territory for the Emmy-Nominated media personality, she took extra care when selecting a physician who specialized in asthma.
"I think we all need something different and I needed a really involved doctor who didn't mind answering my questions or responding to my emails," Nina explained. "This was new and very scary as an adult because I always thought this was something you got as a child."
Through her partnership with Amgen and AstraZeneca for their Break the Cycle initiative, Parker hopes to dispel the myths and misinformation about life with asthma such as the ones that initially fueled her self-limiting behaviors.
"I had so many questions. Can I work out? Can I still hike? I was self-diagnosing. That's why Break the Cycle is so important and why I partnered with Amgen and AstraZeneca. It's a resource for so many people to use. As an adult, you don't know where to go and the internet can be a very scary place. To have resourceful information all in one place. To be able to find a doctor, all in one place. It's very helpful."
Among the resources offered by Break the Cycle is a collection of helpful questions people living with asthma can ask their medical team. Additionally, the information hub offers a questionnaire to help distinguish between controlled and uncontrolled asthma and a search tool to connect patients with qualified asthma specialists.
"Break the Cycle was helpful in giving me information that I needed and provided me with questions that I can ask my doctor," she explains. "It was really more in my head than anything. I realize I didn't have to hinder my lifestyle."
"The questionnaire on the site is a really great place for people to start," continues Parker. "There's so much misinformation out there. It's nice to know that there's a website where you can gain knowledge and also help educate yourself and your family."
To learn more about Break the Cycle, visit breakthecycle.com.