"Some women find their symptoms are worse during pregnancy, and a sizeable minority of female asthmatics find they are worse just before a period."Many cases of late-onset asthma are triggered by viral infections - for Celeste Abrahams, it was a bout of pleurisy - but environmental factors such as pollution and allergens can also cause the inflammation that leads to an attack.People who suffer allergic conditions, such as hay fever and eczema, are particularly susceptible (again, there could be a genetic link), while foods that often cause allergic reactions, such as nuts, shellfish and dairy products, are other common triggers.After her first attack, Abrahams was sent home with a 10-day course of oral steroids.

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"Many patients with so-called late-onset asthma were 'chesty' children," he says.

"They suffered bouts of what was probably identified at the time as bronchitis, but was likely to have been undiagnosed asthma."While having certain genes can make you more susceptible, the triggers that bring about the condition vary widely. "Cases of late-onset asthma in women peak around the menopause," says Prof Partridge.

Although asthma is seen as a childhood illness, of the 5.2 million known sufferers in Britain - a staggering one in 12 of the population - 40 per cent were diagnosed as adults.

A quarter of them were aged 35 or more at the time.

At Epsom Hospital, Abrahams was told she'd suffered an asthma attack so severe that her heart had stopped beating.

Two of her colleagues had given her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, almost certainly saving her life."I couldn't believe it," she says.

Now, I just use my preventative inhaler plus a steroid inhaler when I'm feeling a bit iffy.

But compared with the amount of steroids I was taking before, it's nothing," she says."I've also worked out what my triggers are - milk, fish oils, nuts and shellfish - but sometimes I go without an attack for so long, I get a bit cocky and I'll have something I shouldn't. But it's been years since I've had a severe attack."I know I'll never be 'cured' and that I could have a serious attack again, but I'm ready for it now." The Big Short, the film adaptation of Michael Lewis' book of the same name about the causes of the financial crisis, opens in UK cinemas this weekend.

"A lot of people don't realise they can develop asthma as adults, so they might not get medical help when they begin to experience symptoms.

But the consequences of not doing so can be fatal."Asthma has been on the increase since the Fifties, although the number of cases appears to have reached a plateau in the past decade.

This type of asthma can be cured by the sufferer changing jobs.