That Growing Waistline Could Signal COPD in Your Future

Overweight person standing on weight scaleOn this blog, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the benefits that can people living with chronic conditions (like these) can realize when they take steps to eat well and stay active. Research has provided more than enough solid evidence to support the old saying “treat your body like a temple.” Not to rub this one in further, but a team of specialists report that obesity could make someone much more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

A new COPD clinical study compared overweight male and female participants with their healthy weight counterparts. It appears that excess stomach fat (43 inch waists or more for women and 46 or more for men) translated to about a 72 percent higher risk of developing COPD.

COPD Is Already a Large Problem

This is significant for several reasons:

  1. An increasingly sedentary lifestyle is putting more people at risk for obesity.
  2. Healthcare experts already consider obesity to be an epidemic in the states.
  3. COPD is extremely hard to diagnose.
  4. COPD currently ranks as the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Known risk factors for COPD include:

  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Long-term exposure to air pollutants (dust, chemicals, etc.)
  • Age
  • Genetics

A Trimmer Waist Could Lower Your COPD Risk

Fortunately, it would seem that people who may have a higher risk for COPD can help protect themselves by maintaining a healthier weight through diet and exercise.

(Please know that we are recommending maintaining a healthy weight here. This research also showed that underweight people had a 56 percent higher chance of developing COPD.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has some baseline recommendations for both men and women’s waistlines:

  • Shouldn’t exceed 35 inches for women
  • Shouldn’t exceed 40 inches for men

This new COPD study showed that regular physical activity could do a lot to improve a person’s odds. Doing something physically active at least 5 times per week reduces a person’s pulmonary risk by nearly 30 percent compared to less active people.

If you check out the American College of Sports Medicine’s website, you’ll see that they recommend 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five times per week. You could also shoot for 20 to 60 minutes of high-intensity activity at least three times a week.

Decade Long Study Shows Significance of Waist Size

Overweight man suffering from a chronic coughGundula Behrens, a professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the University of Regensburg in Germany, coordinated this COPD clinical trial.

Behrens and her team tracked more than 113,000 Americans (between the ages of 50 and 70) over the course of a decade. In order to qualify for this study, all volunteers were screened for COPD, cancer and heart disease when it commenced in 1995.

3,600 people were diagnosed with COPD over the next 10 years. When accounting for the individual’s history of tobacco usage (they either smoked or didn’t), their waist size ended up being a strong predictor of COPD risk.

It should be noted that Dr. Norman Edelman, senior medical consultant to the American Lung Association, believes these findings are not conclusive.

“At this point, I think it’s possible that it’s just an association without a causal effect,” he said. “The link between the association is that both COPD and obesity cause shortness of breath.”

(Smoking is still the primary risk factor when it comes to this deadly respiratory disease.)

Behrens hasn’t announced when the next phase of research will commence, but we do hope that the work will inspire more people to seek healthier opportunities in their daily lives. The early symptoms of COPD are easily overlooked, and hiding behind the notion that “this couldn’t happen to me” is not advisable.




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