HealthDay News — Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the third leading cause of death in the world, may also raise patients’ odds for sudden cardiac death, study findings published in the European Heart Journal indicate.

“Previous studies have identified an association between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease, and with sudden cardiac death in specific patient groups,” noted Lies Lahousse, MD, of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

To investigate whether there is an association between COPD and sudden cardiac death in the general population, the investigators culled data from 13,471 patients, aged 45 years and older, who were enrolled in the Rotterdam study.

Over the course of the study, 39% of the participants died. Of those deaths, 551 were related to sudden cardiac death. Breaking it down even further, the researchers found that 15% of those who died of sudden cardiac death had COPD. Overall, a diagnosis of COPD increased the risk for sudden cardiac death by 34% (age- and sex-adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 1.34).

The risk was found to be even higher at 5 years after diagnosis (age- and sex-adjusted HR, 2.12), and higher still for COPD patients with frequent exacerbations (age- and sex-adjusted HR, 3.58). The study participants with COPD who experienced sudden cardiac death were more likely to die during the night, added the scientists.

“The most important way to prevent COPD and sudden cardiac death is not to smoke and to have a healthy lifestyle,” study coauthor Marieke Niemeijer, MD, of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, Netherlands, said in a journal news release.

“If a person does develop COPD, then this is even more important, as smoking [and] an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle have been proven to increase the risk of sudden cardiac death.”


  1. Lahousse L et al. 2015; doi: