Many people are concerned about their life expectancy when affected by a chronic disease. Basically, it can be said that every disease is individual, just as all patients are individual. There is therefore no such thing as a "rule of thumb". What there is, however, is guidance from clues such as lung function, stage of disease, as well as the age of the person with the disease.
Despite all the imponderables associated with the question of life expectancy, one thing can be said with certainty: Despite the diagnosis of COPD, the patients themselves have an enormous influence on the course of their disease.
In this article we show you,
- how COPD affects your life expectancy,
- Which factors influence prognosis
- How you can improve your life expectancy.
Average life span with COPD
The general life expectancy in Germany is currently about 80 years. With COPD, this decreases by an average of 5-7 years. However, this figure is significantly influenced by the FEV1 value of those affected – i.e. how quickly and how much lung function actually declines.
The FEV1 value is already known to most patients with COPD – because the classification into a stage according to GOLD depends on it. As a general rule, the more the individual FEV1 value deviates from the normal value, the higher the GOLD stage and the lower the life expectancy.
Another measure is the BODE index. BODE stands for
- Body mass index (BMI), calculated from body height and weight
- Obstruction, calculated by the one-second capacity FEV1
- Dyspnoea (= shortness of breath), given by the patient’s own assessment
- Exercise capacity, measured by distance walked in six minutes
After measuring these four key figures, they are offset against each other in a mathematical procedure and the result is the life expectancy of the patient personal BODE score. The lower this turns out to be, the lower is the statistical risk of dying from COPD. Nevertheless, it is clear that the course of COPD is individual – and so is the mortality risk.
Unfavorable factors for life expectancy
It is therefore known that an advanced COPD GOLD stage and a high age are two of the factors that can have an unfavorable effect on life expectancy in COPD. But what are the other influences?
1. Smoking accelerates loss of lung function
This will not be new to most people: People who continue to smoke despite having COPD are taking drastic consequences for their lung health. Because compared to healthy non-smokers the life expectancy decreases from smoking COPD patients:in GOLD stage 4 significantly: on average, up to 9 years. In most cases, lung function declines significantly year after year – whereas the disease progresses steadily. In addition, as COPD progresses, the risk of new serious diseases increases, further worsening the prognosis.
2. Exacerbations reduce survival rate
Exacerbations, i.e. acute worsening of symptoms, play a central role in the progression of COPD – and thus in the expected life span. As a Dutch research group found out, live 15 years after a severe exacerbation with hospitalization On average, 7.3% of COPD patients are still affected.
For the individual COPD stages, this was shown as follows:
Accept your disease
A chronic lung disease such as COPD often puts a great deal of strain on patients – and can at least temporarily deprive them of energy for other activities. However, the sooner those affected learn to live with their limitations and nevertheless accept the challenges ahead, the greater the chance of a long life span.
Stop the progression of COPD!
The course of a COPD is not pre-programmed. Although this is a progressive disease, it is a huge difference, whether you will drastically lose lung function within a few years or whether the disease will be largely stable for a long time. In addition, it is difficult to predict how quickly the disease will progress in an individual – and how that, in turn, will affect their Well-being of the patient effects.
Avoid inhalation of harmful substances
Work constructively with your doctor
Successful treatment of COPD requires open communication between doctor and patient. To the Appointments with a lung specialist you can prepare yourself well by listening to yourself and asking yourself questions: When do my complaints usually occur? How do my medications work? This is where the easier-breathing checklist can help.
Even though resilience may be diminished in everyday life – withdrawing from an active life is not helpful. Learning to manage your energy well and focus on what’s important can help you feel healthier longer. Regular exercise and targeted training also help to increase resilience again, and thus to lung function for as long as possible.
Although severe COPD can shorten a person’s life, it does not mean you are at the mercy of your diagnosis. Even at a late stage, there are still many possibilities and approaches to influence one’s own well-being. The most important thing is never to give up on yourself and your health.