BMI, Waist Circumference Linked to Lung Function Decline in Pre- and Postmenopausal Women

Previous research has shown the health effects of obesity, including the decline in lung function. New research highlights obesity is a risk factor for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

In premenopausal and postmenopausal women, obesity and abdominal obesity, as measured by body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC), are risk factors for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study published in Menopause.

Previous studies have shown that women experience greater lung function impairment and have a higher risk of developing COPD than men. In addition, female smokes experience a more rapid decline in lung function between the ages of 45 and 50 years compared with male smokers.

While research has shown obesity leads to a decline in lung function and the incidence of COPD in people with obesity is significantly higher than those without, little is known about the effects of obesity on COPD and asthma in women relative to menopause.

“This study highlights yet another detrimental effect of obesity and abdominal adiposity in women and specifically identified that women with a high BMI and/or WC had a greater risk of developing COPD and asthma,” Stephanie Faubion, MD, MBA, FACP, NCMP, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, said in a statement. “In addition to avoiding tobacco use, maintaining a healthy body weight and composition may help reduce the incidence of COPD and asthma in women.

Faubion is also the medical director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). Menopause, which published the study, is the journal of NAMS.

The nationwide population-based cohort study included 1,644,635 Korean women 30 years or older. The women did not have a diagnosis of COPD or asthma but had undergone national cancer screening in 2009. Their classification of premenopausal or postmenopausal was based on their status at the time of cancer screening.

Baseline BMI and WC were measured to classify the women in 5 BMI groups and 5 WC groups:

  • BMI groups: < 18.5 kg/m2, 18.5-23 kg/m2, 23-25 kg/m2, 25-30 kg/m2, and ≥ 30 kg/m2
  • WC groups: < 60 cm, 65-75 cm, 75-85 cm, 85-95 cm, and ≥ 95 cm

The researchers found that the groups with high BMI and WC had significantly higher COPD and asthma incidence compared with groups with normal BMI and WC regardless of menopausal status. The higher the BMI and WC, the greater the risk of both COPD and asthma. However, being underweight was also a risk factor for COPD in postmenopausal women.

“Controlling weight and maintaining a healthy body shape can help prevent COPD and asthma in women,” the authors concluded.


Lee C-W, Kim HJ, Nam MJ, et al. Obesity and abdominal obesity are risk factors for airway obstructive diseases in Korean women. Menopause. Published online February 21, 2022. doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000001958

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