Home > COPD: Avoiding Weight Loss
Some people with severe
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—especially those with
emphysema—may be underweight and malnourished.
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
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.
Weight loss in COPD may be caused by:
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.
Continue to Why?
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
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
Weight loss in COPD can make breathing more
When you lose weight, you lose muscle,
including the muscles that help you breathe. This can result in more difficulty
Continue to How?
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.
Foods that can
help you add nutritious calories to your diet include:
following foods to meals or snacks can help you add calories and protein to
Milk, milk products,
and meats are high in protein. Try to eat more of these foods, or:
You should consult with your doctor or
registered dietitian before changing your diet to
maintain or gain weight.
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.
Continue to Where?
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
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:
Return to topic:
Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease
(2010). In Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Available online:
November 29, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
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