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COPD Has Significant Impact on Biologic Aging

Jaime Rosenberg
Based on dehydroepiandrosterone and growth hormone levels, researchers have determined that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with increased biological age.
Previous research has identified common characteristics between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and aging, both of which experience processes that include oxidant/antioxidant, protease/antiprotease, and proliferative/antiproliferative balance, as well as dysfunction in the control of inflammatory response. Now, a new study has demonstrated that COPD has a strong influence on premature aging.

The findings came from a study of 118 patients, 70 of which had COPD, recruited from 20 primary care centers in Thessaly, Greece, between January 2015 and December 2016. The researchers of the study drew on prior research indicating several aging biomarkers and focused on 2 to determine biological age: dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and growth hormone (GH).

“The major feature of aging is the role of hormones as key regulators of human muscle metabolism and physical function,” explained the researchers. “Decline or even loss of sex hormones is combined with aging, which may be responsible for muscle weakness, muscle loss, decreased functional performance, and decreased lifespan.”

Data from the 2-year period revealed that both DHEA and GH were significantly and negatively associated with aging. Among the patients, those with COPD had levels of DHEA (34.2 vs 64.6) and GH (0.37 vs 0.79) that were significantly lower compared with levels in patients without COPD.

The group of patients without COPD included both smokers and nonsmokers, and the 2 hormone levels varied for both of types these controls. According to the researchers, COPD patients had significantly lower DHEA and GH levels compared with both smoker controls (34.2 vs 64.17) and nonsmoker controls (34.2 vs 64.77).

With each 1-year age increase, there was a drop of 1.26 units in DHEA and a drop of 0.032 units in GH levels. Taking the difference in DHEA scores (30.2 µg/dL) between patients with COPD and those without, the biological age of a patient with COPD was approximately 24 years older than that of a patient the same age without the disease. When taking the difference in GH score (0.42 ng/mL), patients with COPD had a biological age that was 13.1 years older than that of a patient the same age without the disease.

“It could be strongly argued that, due to the production of constant stresses that induce cell damage and eventual senescence, COPD might be directly responsible for accelerating aging, with all in untoward effects, rather than being a consequence of aging,” wrote the researchers.

The researchers were not surprised to find that COPD assessment test, breathless scale, and COPD clinical questionnaire scores were all higher among patients with COPD and that health quality scores were lower among these patients.


Karametos I, Tsiboli P, Togousidis I, Hatzoglou C, Giamouzis G, Gourgoulianis K. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as a main factor of premature aging [published online February 13, 2019]. Int J Environ Res Public Health. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16040540.

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