When patients have a chronic condition, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), that patient can have a second chronic condition, or comorbidity. Clinical research has identified osteoporosis as a significant comorbidity of COPD. Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder that results in decreased bone mineral density and decreased bone quality. Weaker bones increase a person’s risk of developing fractures.
Here, I’ll explain the connections between COPD and osteoporosis.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis in COPD Patients
Osteoporosis and COPD affect older men and women — age is a primary risk factor for both conditions. Many people with COPD also suffer from decreased physical activity, systemic inflammation and vitamin D deficiency. All of these are potential risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Vitamin D is a critical component in the process of bone formation and calcium regulation. Both vitamin D and calcium help prevent bone loss and strengthen bone density, but deficiencies in these 2 nutrients are highly prevalent in people with COPD.
Low body mass index (BMI) is recognized as a predictor of osteoporosis in both COPD patients and the general population because changes in body composition affect bone mineral density. Many COPD patients suffer from low BMI and weight loss as their condition becomes more severe.
COPD patients taking corticosteroids are also at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis is an established side effect of long-term corticosteroid use. Dosage is a determining factor — taking a higher dosage increases the likelihood of osteoporosis.
How Osteoporosis Affects Lung Disease Patients
Loss of bone mineral density and bone strength from osteoporosis increases the risk of vertebral compression fractures and other fractures in patients who have COPD. Sustaining any fracture will decrease quality of life and further limit mobility in these patients. Vertebral compression fractures can also affect respiratory function. Spine fractures lead to loss of height, thoracic spine deformities and abnormal rounding in the upper back (kyphosis). These conditions can all result in impaired pulmonary function and a decline in vital capacity. If the spine is collapsed or deformed, less air moves freely into the lungs.
How Can COPD Patients Reduce the Risk of Osteoporosis?
You should always talk to your doctor about individual treatment options if you feel like you are at risk for osteoporosis or osteoporosis-related fractures. Your condition and risk factors will be different from someone else’s, and you and your physician will work together to determine the best treatment plan.
However, with the approval of your doctor, there are some things you can do at home that will improve your overall health, lung function and bone strength. Exercise as much as you can tolerate, because it will help prevent bone loss. Regular exercise also strengthens the muscles that you use to breathe. Eat a balanced diet full of leafy green vegetables and good fats to maintain a healthy weight. Consider adding more calcium and vitamin D into your diet — cheese, chia seeds, almonds and yogurt are good sources of calcium, while salmon, herring, sardines, shrimp and eggs all provide a healthy dose of vitamin D.
Treatment for COPD at Lung Health Institute
You can also consider cellular therapy treatment for COPD. Cellular therapy uses platelet-rich plasma-platelet concentrate (PRP-PC) and other healing cells found in your blood to potentially reduce airway inflammation and slow the progression of chronic lung disease. This treatment could improve your quality of life and reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms. If you are interested in learning more about cellular therapy treatment options, contact a patient coordinator at Lung Health Institute today.