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Severe Pulmonary Disease Can Harm Cognitive Functioning

Study of older adults associates severe COPD with lower cognitive performance

WEDNESDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- Severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can cause a deterioration of cognitive function in older adults over time, according to a study reported in the July 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

William W. Hung, M.D., of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study on 4,150 older adults, who completed cognitive testing in 1996 and one subsequent survey in the years up to 2002. For those with self-reported COPD, severity was determined by oxygen use or by evidence of other limitations. The study outcome was cognitive performance on a validated 35-point scale adjusted for demographic and clinical factors.

The mean cognition score of respondents with severe COPD was 2.6 points lower than respondents without COPD (controls), and was 0.9 points lower for respondents with non-severe COPD compared to controls. After adjustment, the mean score for severe COPD was 0.9 points lower than controls, but the mean score for respondents with non-severe COPD did not differ significantly from controls.

"In conclusion, adults with severe COPD, defined as those with oxygen dependence or disease-related activity limitations, were found to have lower cognitive performance over six years of follow-up. Physicians and other clinical staff managing the care of these patients should be aware of their increased risk for cognitive decline and the greater needs and challenges associated with caring for cognitively impaired older adults," the authors write.

One study author reported receiving payments for serving on a research advisory board and receiving a research grant from the pharmaceutical industry.

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