How COPD Can Cause Weight Gain

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is triggered by cigarette smoking. About 90 percent of COPD patients are long-term heavy smokers, while the remaining 10 percent are nonsmokers. It is believed that environmental pollutants and other irritating substances in the environment contribute to the development of COPD. The symptoms of COPD do not appear early. When you have this disease, you would not have any complaint until about one third of your functional lungs were already completely damaged. The first symptom is difficulty in breathing (dyspnea), which will eventually worsen. Sometimes, coughing or wheezing is the first manifestation of COPD. If you have COPD, you have no difficulty inspiring (taking in) air, but have great difficulty expiring (breathing out). The air accumulates in your lungs, in sacs called alveoli. When this occurs for a long time, your chest eventually adjusts to the constant filling of air by assuming a barrel shape.

In general, if you have COPD, you experience weight loss due to your decreased respiratory function and constant cigarette smoking habit. The weight gain associated with COPD does not stem directly from the disease, but from the interventions when the disease is already diagnosed and being treated.

Quitting Smoking

One necessary step to address COPD is to stop cigarette smoking. According to studies, an average smoker weighs about 4 to 10 pounds less than an average nonsmoker, given similar diets and exercise regimens. If you are a chronic smoker and you want to quit the habit, then expect to gain about 4 to 10 pounds after quitting.

So how does smoking induce weight loss? Nicotine, a substance present in tobacco products, increases the metabolic rate. Increased metabolism means there is a faster utilization of calories, such that there are less calories being deposited as fat. However, the increased metabolism among smokers is not healthy. If you are a smoker, your heart rate could beat 10 to 20 times more after having a cigarette.

If you have COPD and you quit smoking, you can gain weight by virtue of eliminating nicotine from your system. Without nicotine increasing your metabolism, your body acts like that of a nonsmoker and does not utilize calories as fast. Your appetite could also increase, leading to increased consumption of calories. These calories become deposited in your muscles and adipose (fat) tissues, leading to weight gain.

Using COPD Medications

An important step in the treatment of COPD involves the use of inhaled corticosteroids. If you have COPD, these medications are important for decreasing inflammation and improving your respiratory function. They are used as maintenance drugs. However, they can also have the uncommon side effect of weight gain. Despite this side effect, doctors still recommend these drugs because they are best for alleviating the symptoms of COPD. If you are a COPD patient and you are serious about quitting smoking, but you do not want to gain weight, you could resort to dietary and exercise interventions. Maintaining a healthy weight is important in order to decrease the burden on your lungs.


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