The lung disease known as asthma has reached what state health officials now call “epidemic” proportions in Iowa. Asthma cases have more than doubled statewide since 1980. Andrea Hoffman, director of the state’s Asthma Control Program, says Iowans need to be more aware of the breath-stealing yet treatable disease. Asthma affects more Iowans than any other chronic disease — about 200,000 people, about a quarter of whom are under 17 years old. Asthma causes 140,000 lost school days a year and costs up to $154 million a year -statewide- to treat. Hoffman says Iowa’s Department of Public Health has assembled a warplan to battle the epidemic of asthma. While little is known about how to prevent asthma, she says the severity and number of attacks -can- be cut down. Hoffman says some asthmatics need to take a little more responsibility and initiative to ensure they’re not debilitated by the disease. Like most people, Hoffman says people with asthma often don’t go to the doctor’s office unless they’re having a problem. She says they -should- make more frequent visits to their physicians. Uncontrolled asthama attacks result in 12,000 hospitalizations in Iowa every year and some 50,000 trips to the emergency room.