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COPD Comorbid Conditions: Heart Disease, Osteoporosis, and More

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The COPD Foundation Comorbidity Survey continued...

Because of the high number of comorbid conditions these people with COPD reported taking large numbers of medicine. Over 30 percent reported taking 5-10 prescribed medicines daily. Over 25 percent reported taking over 11. These medicines did not even include inhaled medicine for their COPD. Of those surveyed, 72 percent reported taking a COPD medicine, usually a short acting inhaler. In addition 87 percent of patients with COPD and high blood pressure were taking high blood pressure medicine.

And 72 percent of patients with COPD and high cholesterol were taking cholesterol medicine.

Specific Comorbidity Risks

The link between COPD and heart disease has received the most attention. Compared to people without COPD, people with COPD are more likely to be put in the hospital with angina, heart attacks, fibrillation, heart failure and blood clots.3

In a large study of nurses, those with COPD were much more likely to develop diabetes. There was no link found between asthma and diabetes.4 Many with COPD have low Vitamin D levels. Osteoporosis is very common and the risk is increased in men as well as women. Men with COPD in their 60s have the same risk of getting osteoporosis as postmenopausal women.5 Depression and anxiety have been found to be more common in COPD than in other serious chronic illnesses. These other chronic illnesses include heart disease, kidney disease, AIDS and cancer.6 Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is very common in COPD. It is more common in more severe COPD. It often does not have typical heartburn symptoms. There is increasing evidence that GERD may lead to exacerbations.7  

People with COPD are at increased risk for getting lung cancer. This risk may be greater in women.8 Many of these conditions are caused by smoking. COPD patients are at an increased risk of getting these conditions compared to smokers who do not have COPD.

Comorbidities and the Increased Risk of Hospitalization/Death

COPD is a leading cause of hospital stays. This is especially true for older patients. Comorbid conditions are a common or contributing cause of many of these hospital stays. Cardiac events, pneumonias and blood clots are among the most common comorbid conditions that lead to COPD hospital stays. Whatever the reason for the hospital stay, the more comorbid conditions, the longer the hospital stay will be.9

COPD is the fourth leading cause of deaths in adults in the United States. However, there is increasing evidence that many if not most of these deaths are not due to the COPD. Instead, the deaths are caused by comorbid conditions, especially cardiac events and cancer.10

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