Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/625

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though it diminishes the danger of future attacks. We have seen that a strenuous physical effort can under circumstances become the direct cause of an asthma-paroxysm, yet under proper precautions exercise is the best corrective of an asthmatic disposition; for all vital vigor is based upon muscular strength. It would be a mistake to suppose that the invigoration of the lungs alone could be a protection against asthma. An asthmatic diathesis may coexist with a perfect freedom from the usual symptoms of weak lungs; nay, chronic asthma seems to counteract the development of pulmonary phthisis. The asthmatic predisposition seems rather to consist in a general want of vital energy, and the object of the treatment should therefore be the invigoration of the whole system, not by means of "chest-expanders" alone, but by out-door life, pleasant exercise—such as gardening, hunting, or cooperative gymnastics by a free use of cold water, and a liberal but non-stimulating diet. The latter proviso would exclude a large number of comestibles which the Brunonians would enumerate among the essentials of a "tonic regimen": The beef-and-beer cure deals in sham-remedies. We are not nourished by what we eat, but by what we digest. Plethora is not strength, but often its very opposite: the accumulation of expletive fat impairs the disease-resisting power of the organism; a gaunt wood-cutter, a wiry peddler or mail-rider, will survive epidemics that slaughter hecatombs of stall-fed burghers. The modern macrobiots, the long-lived inhabitants of the Ionian Archipelago, subsist on figs, goat-milk, and maize-bread; the herculean natives of the eastern Caucasus live on honey, barley-cakes, and poor cheese. The self-made Samson of modern times, Dr. Winship, of Boston, satisfied his craving for animal food with an occasional box of oiled sardines, and, on a diet of fruit and farinaceous dishes, spiced with daily gymnastics, made his body a complex of superhuman muscles and sinews. A constitution, built up after that pattern, might not secure the possessor against heart-disease, nor—if he confined himself to in-door gymnastics—against consumption, but it would insure him against asthma. In ninety-nine out of a hundred cases, an asthmatic disposition is combined with a deficient muscular development.

The pathological peculiarities of the disease make it safest to begin the movement-cure in midwinter, and suspend it during premature spring weather, and again during the moist, hot weeks of early summer—June being, par excellence, the asthma-month of the year. I knew people who could foretell the very week when they had to get their "asthma-weeds" ready. By a permanent suspension of his exercises an hygienic gymnast would gradually lose the gained vantage-ground, but during a few days' pause the unemployed surplus of vital energy is put at the disposition of the organism. Such pauses, therefore, become advisable whenever the premonitory symptoms of the disease indicate the agency of asthenic influences, and for greater security also after every annoying mental emotion. The occasions for such annoyances should,