Arterial stiffness was most likely in COPD patients who also had osteoporosis, lending weight to the theory that COPD causes premature ageing in bone and vascular systems.
Researchers studied 75 patients, with an average age of 65, with clinically stable COPD and 42 healthy smokers or ex-smokers, average age 62, who formed the control group.
Spirometry was performed to determine lung function, aortic pulse wave velocity (PWV) to measure arterial stiffness and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry was used to assess bone mineral density (BMD).
COPD patients had an average aortic PWV of 11.4m/s, compared with 8.95m/s in controls. Arterial stiffness was even higher in patients with osteoporosis of the hip, with an average aortic PWV of 13.1m/s, compared with 11.2m/s in those without.
Patients with COPD were more likely than controls to have osteoporosis.
BMD of the hip was 0.88g/cm2, compared with 1g/cm2 in the control group.
Even patients with mild COPD had increased arterial stiffness compared with controls, suggesting stiffness starts early in the disease process and increases with decreasing lung function, say the researchers.
Although smoking histories of COPD patients and controls differed, adjustments were made for this in analysis.
Lead researcher Professor Dennis Shale, from the department of respiratory medicine at Cardiff University, said: 'The increased arterial stiffness in patients within each decade is similar to changes seen in type-1 diabetes and suggests that age-related vascular changes occur prematurely in COPD.
'However, unlike diabetes, the risk of premature excess cardiovascular disease in COPD is not appreciated.'
- Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2007; 175: 1,259-65
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