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Obesity and Waist Size are Risk Factors for COPD

Update Date: Jul 07, 2014 12:12 PM EDT
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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the most common types of lung disease. COPD comes in two forms, which are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Both conditions can lead to difficulty breathing. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of weight on COPD risk and discovered that obesity and large waist size can increase one's risk of developing COPD.

For this study, the researchers from Germany and the United States examined medical data on 113,279 people who were between the ages of 50 and 70. None of the participants had COPD, cancer or heart disease at the start of the study, which took place in 1995. The researchers had information on the people's waist and hip circumference, body mass index (BMI) and physical activity levels.

The team followed up on the participants 10 years later and found that 3,648 people had developed COPD. The researchers calculated that men with a large waist circumference measurement of over 118 cm and women with a measurement of over 110 cm had a 72 percent greater risk of getting COPD.

"We observed a stronger positive relation with abdominal body fat than with total body fat and COPD," Dr. Gundula Behrens, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany, wrote reported by the press release. "In particular, overweight as measured by BMI emerged as a significant predictor of increased risk of COPD only among those with a large waist circumference."

The researchers added that a large waist measurement increased COPD risk for smokers and nonsmokers. People who had a larger waist circumference but were also physically active five times a week had a 29 percent reduced risk of COPD. The researchers also discovered that people who were underweight had a 56 percent increased risk of COPD. The team concluded that maintaining a healthy weight and staying well-nourished are important in preventing COPD.

"Our findings suggest that next to smoking cessation and the prevention of smoking initiation, meeting guidelines for body weight, body shape and physical activity level may represent important individual and public health opportunities to decrease the risk of COPD. Physicians should encourage their patients to adhere to these guidelines as a means of preventing chronic diseases in general and possibly COPD in particular," the authors stated.

The study, "Body size and physical activity in relation to incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

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