Patient breathes more easily through weight loss

June 30, 2015

For years, Janet Handy had trouble walking up stairs, tying her shoelaces…and just plain breathing. She was nearly 240 pounds in 2013 when she enrolled in the Weight Management Clinic at The Ottawa Hospital.

“I had battled with weight on and off throughout my life,” said Handy. “Then, over the last several years, I developed breathing problems and I didn’t know why.”

While attending the weekly weight loss clinic appointments, she noticed a poster calling for participants suffering from breathing problems to join a research study on asthma and weight loss. Within six months she had shed about 60 pounds and was breathing freely and feeling energized.

“It is basic stuff, but it is critical,” said Handy. “Now, I can actually breathe well for the first time in 10 years.”

This month, the study that Handy and 21 other people participated in was published in the journal CHEST.

“The results support weight loss as a strategy to reduce or reverse asthma symptoms,” said Dr. Smita Pakhale, lead author of the study and a respirologist at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa. “Although other studies have been done in this area, the strength of our study is the use of rigorous methods to assess asthma and to objectively measure asthma severity as the primary study outcome.”

Dr. Smita Pakhale led a study at The Ottawa Hospital on how asthma is related to obesity. The findings could help many patients breathe more easily.

The incidence of asthma in obese people is close to 1.5 times higher than in those of a healthy weight.

The study also underscores the importance of treating comorbidities – other health conditions that occur at the same time as asthma. “You have to treat all conditions to really improve the quality of life for patients,” said Dr. Pakhale.

Handy strongly supports the integrated approach taken by the hospital.

“One of the real benefits of the hospital’s program is the holistic view it takes toward health and education,” she said. “Weight can affect breathing, nutrition affects weight, medications can increase weight, if you have injuries or trouble breathing you won’t exercise. It is really important that all the systems work together, because there is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

These days Handy is down to 175 pounds. “I have a lot more energy, I am keeping my breathing issues at bay, and I am managing to keep the weight off. The programs at the hospital changed everything.”

For further information, please contact

Lois Ross
Senior Communications Specialist
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Office: 613-737-8899 x73687
Cell: 613-297-8315