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COPD: Avoiding Weight Loss


Table of Contents


Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.   COPD: Avoiding Weight Loss

Some people with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—especially those with emphysema—may be underweight and malnourished.

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  What causes weight and muscle loss in COPD?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Why is weight loss a concern in COPD?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  How do I avoid weight loss in COPD?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Where to go from here

What? - What is the medical information or key concepts related to the action?  What causes weight and muscle loss in COPD?

Although the reasons for weight and muscle loss in COPD are not completely understood, experts believe that it happens because of a combination of things. These include:

Poor eating habits and nutrition also can contribute to weight loss. For older adults, the cost of food and being isolated from others may play a role in poor eating habits.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Weight loss in COPD may be caused by:

    1. Increased use of energy by the body.

      All of these answers are correct.

      Weight loss in COPD may be caused by many different things, including increased use of energy by the body, depression, and shortness of breath. All answers are correct.

    2. Depression. People who have COPD may be depressed, which often causes a lack of interest in eating.

      All of these answers are correct.

      Weight loss in COPD may be caused by many different things, including increased use of energy by the body, depression, and shortness of breath. All answers are correct.

    3. Shortness of breath, which may make it difficult to prepare and eat foods.

      All of these answers are correct.

      Weight loss in COPD may be caused by many different things, including increased use of energy by the body, depression, and shortness of breath. All answers are correct.


Why? - Why the action is important?  Why is weight loss a concern in COPD?

Weight loss is a concern in COPD because as you lose weight, you lose muscle mass. Muscle loss may result in your feeling weaker. And muscle loss makes it harder to breathe (the muscles that help you breathe also weaken). Weakness can also lead to a greater chance of infections, such as pneumonia.

Some people with COPD weigh too little for good health. People who are very underweight, especially those with emphysema, are at higher risk of death than are people with COPD who have a normal weight.1

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Weight loss in COPD can make breathing more difficult.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      When you lose weight, you lose muscle, including the muscles that help you breathe. This can result in more difficulty breathing.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      When you lose weight, you lose muscle, including the muscles that help you breathe. This can result in more difficulty breathing.


How? - Learn the steps involved in taking action.  How do I avoid weight loss in COPD?

If you are beginning to lose weight and muscle mass, you probably need to eat more protein and get more calories. This generally means eating more foods containing fat and protein. Because eating too much fat and targeting certain nutrients (such as protein) may have health risks, always consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian before eating more of these foods to gain weight.

High-calorie, nutritious snacks

Foods that can help you add nutritious calories to your diet include:

Adding calories to a meal or snack

Adding the following foods to meals or snacks can help you add calories and protein to your diet.

Adding protein to your diet

Milk, milk products, and meats are high in protein. Try to eat more of these foods, or:

Test Your Knowledge

  1. You should consult with your doctor or registered dietitian before changing your diet to maintain or gain weight.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      To gain weight when you have COPD, you may have to eat more foods with higher amounts of fat and protein. Eating too much fat and focusing on certain nutrients may have health risks, so it is important that you work with your doctor or a registered dietitian to find the best way to gain weight safely.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      To gain weight when you have COPD, you may have to eat more foods with higher amounts of fat and protein. Eating too much fat and focusing on certain nutrients may have health risks, so it is important that you work with your doctor or a registered dietitian to find the best way to gain weight safely.


Where? - Other resources and organizations that can help you take action.  Where to go from here

If you have COPD and are worried about losing weight, see your doctor or a registered dietitian. He or she can help you plan a healthy, high-calorie and high-protein diet.

If you are eating more calories but are continuing to lose weight, see your doctor.

People with COPD often have little interest in food or difficulty eating because of shortness of breath. For tips on eating regularly and eating healthy foods, see:

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition. COPD: Keeping Your Diet Healthy.

References

Citations

  1. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (2011). Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of COPD. Available online: http://www.goldcopd.org/uploads/users/files/GOLD_Report_2011_Feb21.pdf.

Credits for COPD: Avoiding Weight Loss

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
Last Revised February 19, 2013

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