COPD Life Expectancy

Anyone diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should understand the condition’s various stages.

man with inhaler

People are living longer with COPD through the use of inhaler medications, portable oxygen systems and pulmonary rehabilitation.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, unfortunately, is associated with a reduced life expectancy. Your COPD prognosis, however, won’t be as bad if you’re in the mildest COPD stages at about age 65.

For example, your COPD life expectancy, if you have Stage 1 COPD, might be reduced by just a few years compared to a healthy, fit older adult. (Quit smoking and take care of your overall health, and you have a chance to help boost your COPD life expectancy.) But if you’re in the more severe COPD stages (Stage 3 and Stage 4 COPD), plus you still smoke, your COPD life expectancy is reduced by more; studies suggest you lose about six years of life.

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One of the ways your doctor can predict your COPD life expectancy is by comparing your COPD signs and symptoms to the “GOLD” COPD guidelines (GOLD stands for Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease). The BODE index (see below) also may be used.

GOLD Guidelines

The GOLD COPD guidelines divide COPD signs and symptoms into four stages:

  • Stage 1: Mild COPD
  • Stage 2: Moderate COPD
  • Stage 3: Severe COPD
  • Stage 4: Very severe COPD

If you’re in the severe or very severe COPD stages, advanced treatments can help increase your COPD life expectancy, but there are no COPD cures.

BODE Index

Another method that may be used to calculate COPD life expectancy is the BODE index, which gives you a score based on certain factors:

B for body mass

Body mass is a relation of your height to your weight. If your body mass index (BMI) is low, your COPD life expectancy may be worse.

  • BMI higher than 21 = 0 points
  • BMI 21 or less = 1 point

O for obstruction of airflow

This is assessed with a spirometry test that measures how much air you can forcibly exhale in one second. This gives you a “forced expiratory volume in 1 second” (FEV1) score, which is compared to the score that would be expected for a predicted for a person your age with no lung disease.

  • FEV1 greater than 64 percent of predicted = 0 points
  • FEV1 50-64 percent of predicted = 1 point
  • FEV1 36-49 percent of predicted = 2 points
  • FEV1 less than 36 percent of predicted = 3 points

D for dyspnea

Dyspnea means shortness of breath. If you suffer shortness of breath with very little exertion, your COPD prognosis may be worse.

  • No dyspnea except with strenuous exercise = 0 points
  • Shortness of breath when walking up a short hill = 1 point
  • Dyspnea limits your walking pace and you need to stop to catch your breath = 2 points
  • You stop to catch your breath after walking 100 yards on level ground, and your dyspnea prevents you from leaving your home and performing activities of daily living = 3 points

E for exercise capacity

This is measured by seeing how fast you are able to walk over six minutes.

  • More than 349 meters = 0 points
  • 250-349 meters = 1 point
  • 150-249 meters = 2 points
  • Less than 150 meters = 3 points

Originally published in May 2016 and updated.


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