More than 42 percent of middle-aged and older women who have asthma will develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a Canadian study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.
The researchers monitored 4,051 women with asthma (average age 64) for about 14 years after their asthma diagnosis. During that time, 1,701 of the women developed a condition called asthma and COPD overlap syndrome, or ACOS. People with ACOS experience more exacerbations and hospitalizations and have a lower quality of life than those with asthma or COPD alone, say the researchers.
The factors identified in the study as increasing ACOS risk were smoking, obesity, older age, living in a rural area, low education levels, and unemployment. Study results indicate that individual factors play a bigger role in the development of ACOS than environmental factors like air pollution exposure.
What you should do: Some ACOS risk factors, like smoking and obesity, are modifiable with lifestyle changes. If you have asthma, work with your doctor to consider strategies to reduce your chances of developing COPD with healthy habits.
This article first appeared in the November 2018 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.
Also see Don't Blow Off Shortness of Breath.