Why you might not breathe easy this winter

Winter's just two weeks off, and there's plenty to love about the coldest season. If you're like me, you're looking forward to some skiing and hockey.

If you're like some of my family up north, you're probably NOT looking forward to shoveling snow and digging out the car.

And you're almost certainly not looking forward to cold temperatures, slick roads, and winter bugs.

But there's one more thing you need to look out for this winter.

If you have asthma... if you've had a history of the condition or if you may be at risk for it... this is the danger zone.

A new report shows how winter air might be cool and crisp, but it's not helping folks to breathe any easier: Your risk of hospitalization for this condition jumps by 22 percent between December and February.

That's not even the worst of it -- because winter isn't JUST the time when you're most likely to end up hospitalized.

You're also most likely to die from the complications of this condition, with the risk jumping by 56 percent in winter.

The worst month of all depends on your age.

For younger folks, the deadliest month has come and gone. It's November.

Middle-aged asthma patients face the biggest risk in March.

And for seniors, the shortest month is the cruelest: The death risk peaks in February, which, in many areas, is also one of the coldest months of the year.

You can't do anything about your age, and you can't do anything about the calendar other than wait.

But you can take steps to cut your risk.

It starts with knowing you even have that risk -- many patients with milder cases of asthma have never been diagnosed.

That's especially true of older folks who dismiss it as a "kids' disease" and assume they can't get it.

That's not true.

You can develop asthma at any age, even in your senior years. These cases that pop up later in life are especially common in women, but men can also suffer.

And when asthma strikes past the age of 65, it tends to be more serious -- so don't ignore any warning signs, and don't dismiss it as a "kids' disease."

Get help.

About half of the time, the asthma is tied to a common allergy. The other half, the cause is a little tougher to find, and many mainstream docs might never nail it down.

Work closely with a holistic medical doctor who can not only correctly diagnose your asthma but also find the triggers, so you can learn to avoid them.