Obesity and COPD: Associated symptoms, health-related quality of life, and medication use

Laura M. Cecere, Alyson J. Littman, Christopher G. Slatore, Edmunds M. Udris, Chris L. Bryson, Edward J. Boyko, David J. Pierson, David H. Au

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Background: There is little data about the combined effects of COPD and obesity. We compared dyspnea, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), exacerbations, and inhaled medication use among patients who are overweight and obese to those of normal weight with COPD. Methods: We performed secondary data analysis on 364 Veterans with COPD. We categorized subjects by body mass index (BMI). We assessed dyspnea using the Medical Research Council (MRC) dyspnea scale and HRQoL using the St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire. We identified treatment for an exacerbation and inhaled medication use in the past year. We used multiple logistic and linear regression models as appropriate, with adjustment for age, COPD severity, smoking status, and co-morbidities. Results: The majority of our population was male (n = 355, 98%) and either overweight (n = 115, 32%) or obese (n = 138, 38%). Obese and overweight subjects had better lung function (obese: mean FEV1 55.4% ±19.9% predicted, overweight: mean FEV1 50.0% ±20.4% predicted) than normal weight subjects (mean FEV1 44.2% ±19.4% predicted), yet obese subjects reported increased dyspnea [adjusted OR of MRC score ≥2 = 4.91 (95% CI 1.80, 13.39], poorer HRQoL, and were prescribed more inhaled medications than normal weight subjects. There was no difference in any outcome between overweight and normal weight patients. Conclusions: Despite having less severe lung disease, obese patients reported increased dyspnea and poorer HRQoL than normal weight patients. The greater number of inhaled medications prescribed for obese patients may represent overuse. Obese patients with COPD likely need alternative strategies for symptom control in addition to those currently recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-284
Number of pages10
JournalCOPD: Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • COPD
  • Exacerbations
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Inhaled medications
  • Obesity
  • Symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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