How Long Can You Live With Copd

How Long Can You Live With Copd
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Many readers are interested in the following topic: Life Expectancy With COPD. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

The second part of the assessment relies on symptoms such as dyspnea, or difficulty breathing, and degree and amount of acute exacerbations, which are flare-ups that may require hospitalization.

COPD Life Expectancy and Outlook

How long a person may live with COPD depends on the severity of the symptoms. There are various ways to measure COPD stages, including by looking at complications such as difficulty breathing or blocked airflow.

Millions of adults in the United States have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and just as many are developing it. But many of them are unaware, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute .

One question many people with COPD have is, “How long can I live with COPD?” There’s no way to predict the exact life expectancy, but having this progressive lung disease can shorten lifespan.

How much so depends on your overall health and whether you have other diseases such as heart disease or diabetes.

Researchers over the years have come up with a way to assess the health of someone with COPD. One of the most current methods combines spirometry lung function test results with a person’s symptoms. These result in labels that can help predict life expectancy and guide treatment choices in those with COPD.

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) is one of the most used systems of classifying COPD. GOLD is an international group of lung health experts who periodically produce and update guidelines for doctors to use in the care of people with COPD.

Doctors use the GOLD system to assess people with COPD in “grades” of the disease. Grading is a way to measure the severity of the condition. It uses the forced expiratory volume (FEV1), a test that determines the amount of air a person can forcefully exhale from their lungs in one second, to categorize the severity of COPD.

The most recent guidelines make FEV1 part of the assessment. Based on your FEV1 score, you receive a GOLD grade or stage as follows:

  • GOLD 1: FEV1 of 80 percent predicted or more
  • GOLD 2: FEV1 of 50 to 79 percent predicted
  • GOLD 3: FEV1 of 30 to 49 percent predicted
  • GOLD 4: FEV1 of less than 30 percent predicted

The second part of the assessment relies on symptoms such as dyspnea, or difficulty breathing, and degree and amount of acute exacerbations, which are flare-ups that may require hospitalization.

Based on these criteria, people with COPD will be in one of four groups: A, B, C, or D.

Someone with no exacerbations or one that didn’t require hospital admission in the past year would be in group A or B. This will also depend on an assessment of breathing symptoms. Those with more symptoms would be in group B, and those with less symptoms would be in group A.

People with at least one exacerbation that required hospitalization, or at least two exacerbations that did or didn’t require hospital admission in the past year, would be in Group C or D. Then, those with more breathing symptoms would be in group D, and those with less symptoms would be in group C.

Under the new guidelines, someone labeled GOLD Grade 4, Group D, would have the most serious classification of COPD. And they’ll technically have a shorter life expectancy than someone with a label of GOLD Grade 1, Group A.

Life Expectancy With COPD

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to predicting someone’s life span with COPD. A lot depends on your age, health, lifestyle, and how severe the disease was when you were diagnosed, plus the steps you’ve taken to lessen the damage afterward.

“COPD is a disease with a lot of moving parts,” says Albert A. Rizzo, MD, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association. “It’s not a death sentence by any means. Many people will live into their 70s, 80s, or 90s with COPD.”

But that’s more likely, he says, if your case is mild and you don’t have other health problems like heart disease or diabetes. Some people die earlier as a result of complications like pneumonia or respiratory failure.

COPD Severity and Life Expectancy

Doctors use a classification system called the Global Initiative on Obstructive Lung Disease (or GOLD) system to determine how severe your COPD is. It’s based on how much air you can forcefully exhale in 1 second after blowing into a plastic tube called a spirometer. You’ll also hear this called a forced expiratory volume (FEV1) test.

The classifications are based on results for an adult your same age, gender, and ethnic group but without COPD. So if your airflow was 80% of someone’s airflow who doesn’t have COPD, you’d be at GOLD or Stage 1. There four stages:

  • GOLD 1: Mild COPD (FEV1 of 80% or more)
  • GOLD 2: Moderate COPD (FEV1 50%-79%)
  • GOLD 3: Severe emphysema/chronic bronchitis (FEV1 30%-49%)
  • GOLD 4: Very severe COPD (FEV1 less than 30%)

In general, the higher your number on the GOLD system, the more likely you are to have problems with or even die from COPD.

Symptoms and Severity

Do you have trouble breathing? Have you been hospitalized for COPD flare-ups, which doctors call exacerbations? Doctors look at your symptoms and put you in one of four categories, A-D. The most serious would be GOLD D (high symptom severity and high exacerbation risk).

Smoking Plays a Role

Smoking is the leading cause of COPD. One study found a small drop in life expectancy (about 1 year) for people with COPD who had never smoked. But there was a much larger reduction for current and former smokers. For men age 65 who smoke, the drop in life expectancy is:

  • Stage 1: 0.3 years
  • Stage 2: 2.2 years
  • Stage 3: 5.8 years
  • Stage 4: 5.8 years

This is in addition to the 3.5 years of life all smokers, whether they have COPD or not, lose to the habit.

The same study also found that women who were current smokers and at Stage 2 lost about 5 years of their lives at Stage 3 and 9 years of their lives at Stage 4.

The BODE Index

Another system doctors use to measure life expectancy with COPD is the BODE Index, which stands for:

  • Body mass: Are you obese or overweight?
  • Airflow obstruction: How much air can you forcefully exhale from your lungs in 1 second (the FEV1 test).
  • Dyspnea: How hard is it to breathe?
  • Exercise capacity: How far can you walk in 6 minutes?

The higher your BODE score, the greater your risk for death from COPD. This test is considered more accurate than just the FEV1 score.

Can Medication Help?

Right now there aren’t any medicines that cure COPD. “We are still looking for drugs that can slow down the disease process itself and reverse inflammation in the airways,” Rizzo says. But there are bronchodilators (medications usually taken through inhalers) that can open your airways and improve shortness of breath.

Corticosteroids can help control flare-ups. That’s important because more COPD hospitalizations are linked to a higher likelihood of death.

If you’re constantly low on oxygen, your doctor might prescribe supplemental oxygen. You’ll get a device you can take with you anywhere to help you breathe.

And you have to have access to care in the first place. Rizzo says more studies are looking at COPD in terms of gender, age, and socioeconomic status. Someone with COPD who doesn’t have access to health care and doesn’t have insurance is more likely to have complications and die early, even if their diagnosis is the same as someone from a higher income level.

Early Diagnosis Can Make a Difference

An early diagnosis can also greatly improve your life expectancy. “Probably half the people with COPD had the disease for a number of years before they were diagnosed,” Rizzo says. “They didn’t bring it to the attention of their physician because they thought the cough and the shortness of breath were related to being overweight, out of shape, and still smoking.”

Also, doctors have to diagnose COPD correctly by ordering the right tests, he says.

Rizzo also points to studies under way figure out why some people are more likely to get COPD than others. A study started this year by the National Institutes of Health and supported by the American Lung Association will look at lung function in 25-35-year-olds (lung function reaches its peak in the mid-20s) and figure out what changes over the course of their lifetime. “We want to notice when an individual develops findings of COPD, what may have led to it, and what we can learn from that to improve survival,” he says.

Make Lifestyle Changes

While there isn’t a drug to take care of COPD, there are many lifestyle changes you can make that will slow disease progression and improve your chances of living a longer life. You can:

  • Quit smoking. It’s the most important thing you can do to improve your life expectancy with COPD.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke and other things that might irritate your lungs.
  • Exercise.
  • Control your weight.
  • Stay up to date with vaccines, including COVID-19, seasonal flu, and pneumonia vaccines.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, follow your doctor’s advice to stop smoking, exercise, and take any medications prescribed. “And most important, stay active,” Rizzo says. “Walking is the best exercise for lungs, so walk on a regular basis.”