COPD Associated with Increased Sudden Cardiac Death Risk

Individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are more likely to experience sudden cardiac death, according to a team of Dutch researchers.

Individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more likely to experience sudden cardiac death (SCD), according to a team of Dutch researchers.

Attributed to half of the 4-5 million heart disease-associated deaths worldwide, SCD occurs when the heart stops working. Since SCD has a myriad of root causes, it is difficult to predict who will be affected and create an effective prevention plan, a statement mentioned.

Their findings, which were published online in the European Heart Journal, analyzed the data of 13,471 patients aged 45 and older that were part of the Rotterdam study, which logged their diagnoses and other relevant medical information through examinations for up to 24 years.

Identifying 1,615 COPD patients, the authors discovered 551 SCD occurrences (age- and sex-adjusted hazard ratio, HR, 1.34, 95% CI 1.06—1.70). Specifically, they noted the SCD risk was at its highest at 2000 days (5.48 years) after a COPD diagnosis (age- and sex-adjusted HR 2.12, 95% CI 1.60–2.82). Furthermore, the chance of a SCD rose three-fold if they experienced exacerbations during the five-year period.

"The most important way to prevent COPD and SCD is not to smoke and to have a healthy lifestyle. If a person does develop COPD, then this is even more important, as smoking, an unhealthy and a sedentary lifestyle have been proven to increase the risk of SCD,” the paper’s co-author, Marieke Niemeijer, a medical doctor and PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology at Erasmus Medical Centre, located in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, offered in a statement. “Therefore, smoking cessation is not only important for the course of COPD but also for the development of heart problems and, subsequently, the occurrence of SCD.”

Pressing for further research, the investigators recommended exploring several facets of the SCD-COPD relationship including identifying effective strategies to lower the risk, highlighting underlying mechanisms, and testing the effectiveness β-blockers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) or ceasing QTc-prolonging drugs.