Results of epidemiological studies have shown that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is frequently associated with comorbidities, the most serious and prevalent being cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, and cachexia. Mechanistically, environmental risk factors such as smoking, unhealthy diet, exacerbations, and physical inactivity or inherent factors such as genetic background and ageing contribute to this association. No convincing evidence has been provided to suggest that treatment of COPD would reduce comorbidities, although some indirect indications are available. Clear evidence that treatment of comorbidities improves COPD is also lacking, although observational studies would suggest such an effect for statins, β blockers, and angiotensin-converting enzyme blockers and receptor antagonists. Large-scale prospective studies are needed. Reduction of common risk factors seems to be the most powerful approach to reduce comorbidities. Whether reduction of so-called spill-over of local inflammation from the lungs or systemic inflammation with inhaled or systemic anti-inflammatory drugs, respectively, would also reduce COPD-related comorbidities is doubtful.
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