Lung disease 'linked to mental decline'

GPs should be on the look-out for cognitive problems in people with obstructive lung disease as the two conditions are linked, researchers have said.

The risk of memory problems is higher in patients with obstructive lung disease
The risk of memory problems is higher in patients with obstructive lung disease

People with obstructive lung disease face a greater risk of developing problems with cognitive impairment than others of the same age without the condition, research has shown.

Researchers said health professionals should be aware of the impact mental decline may have on patients' attempts to self-manage their respiratory condition.

The findings were presented at the European Respiratory Society Annual Congress 2013 in Barcelona, Spain on Wednesday.

The team from the Netherlands studied data from the UK Biobank Resource, a research project with health data on half a million patients.

Although previous research has linked obstructive lung disease and mental decline, this study aimed to uncover which areas of cognitive performance were most affected.

A total of 5,764 middle-aged patients with the disease and 37,275 without completed cognitive tests.

The tests found that people with obstructive lung disease scored worse when other factors were accounted for.

Memory and information processing were particularly affected, with weaker impacts seen on numeric short-term memory, visuospatial memory and cognitive processing speed.

Lead author Fiona Cleutjens from the Centre of Expertise for Chronic Organ Failure in the Netherlands said: ‘We know that obstructive lung disease can often exist alongside other conditions and our new study has found evidence that obstructive lung disease is linked with problems with memory and information processing.

She added: ‘Our findings suggest that healthcare professionals need to be aware of the possible impact of cognitive impairment in the self-management, clinical management and pulmonary rehabilitation of obstructive lung disease patients.’

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