COPD May Raise Cardiac Death Risk

Medically Reviewed

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may increase the risk of sudden cardiac death, according to a recent study. People who had COPD for a longer time and experienced frequent flares were at greatest risk.

These findings, published in the European Heart Journal in August 2015, are based on an analysis of data from the ongoing Rotterdam Study, involving nearly 15,000 people age 45 and older who, at the time the data was analyzed, had been followed for up to 24 years.

In the COPD sudden cardiac death analysis, 13,471 people were included; of these, 1,615 had been diagnosed with COPD. Over the course of the study, 39 percent of the participants died, 551 because of sudden cardiac death, and of that group, 15 percent had COPD.

When compared with people of the same age and sex who did not have COPD, those with it had a 34 percent increased risk of sudden cardiac death, overall. However, the risk almost doubled five years after a diagnosis of COPD. In COPD patients who had frequent exacerbations, the risk of sudden cardiac death increased more than threefold after five years.

A major risk factor for sudden cardiac death is underlying heart disease, so it’s important to address lifestyle issues that can contribute to it. Measures to take include quitting smoking and losing weight if you need to, as well as treating other health problems, such as elevated blood cholesterol and diabetes.