MONDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- People with chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease are more likely today than in the
past to die from cardiovascular disease or other conditions that
are not respiratory ailments, a new Swedish study has found.
This suggests that doctors need to be more aware of these risks
when treating people with COPD, as the condition is known.
In recent years, the average age of COPD patients beginning
long-term oxygen therapy has grown in Sweden from 66 to 73 years,
Dr. Magnus P. Ekstrom, respiratory medicine physician and
researcher at Blekinge Hospital in Karlskrona, Sweden, said in a
news release from the American Thoracic Society. The proportion of
women starting the therapy also has increased, said Ekstrom, who
worked on the study.
"We wanted to determine if these changes had resulted in a shift in the causes of death for COPD patients with long-term oxygen therapy," he said of the study, published online Jan. 7 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care
The researchers analyzed data on 7,628 adults who began
long-term oxygen therapy for COPD between 1987 and 2004. During the
study, which followed the participants for an average of 1.7 years,
5,497 of them died.
Lung cancer and respiratory disease became less common causes of
death each year, but the risk for circulatory and digestive organ
disease both grew, the study found. Overall, the risk for death
from cardiovascular disease increased by almost 62 percent,
according to the study.
The difference seemed to be due, at least in part, to the older
age of people starting oxygen therapy, the study found. "Tobacco
exposure has decreased overall in Sweden, resulting in a delay in
the decline of lung function, which means patients are generally
older when they require" oxygen therapy, Ekstrom said. "However,
although smoking has decreased overall, the rate of decrease has
been greater in men than in women."
Because people are older when starting therapy for COPD, they
"have a progressively higher burden of coexisting diseases and
conditions, and become more vulnerable with increasing age," he
said. Because of this, Ekstrom added, doctors treating COPD with
long-term oxygen therapy "need to be aware of these shifts and to
monitor for other conditions that may influence the risk of death
in these patients."
The U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has more on