Among never-smokers, men and women over 50 years old who are morbidly obese (BMI ? 40) had a greater prevalence of COPD compared to men and women with a normal weight range, and the prevalence was even greater for women.

According to a study published in the Journal of Obesity, never-smoking women with a BMI ? 40 had a 13.4% prevalence of COPD compared to 3.5% of never-smoking women with a normal weight.

Morbidly obese older men who have never smoked also had higher prevalence of COPD than never-smoking men who were normal weight (7.6% vs 2.5%).

The study was based on a nationally representative sample of non-Hispanic white respondents aged 50 and older who reported that they had never smoked. The data were drawn from the 2012 Center for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The final sample included more than 110,000 respondents of whom approximately 4,000 were morbidly obese and 5,000 reported that they had been diagnosed by a health professional with COPD.

“Unfortunately, the survey did not allow us to identify why older obese Americans who were never smokers had such a high prevalence of COPD. Future research is needed to investigate plausible mechanisms for this association, including the role of chronic inflammation associated with obesity and the impact of central obesity on respiratory system mechanics,” stated co-author Kaitlyn Howden, an MD candidate at McMaster University.

“In addition to obesity, older age and lower income were associated with COPD among both men and women. Among women, but not men, height and education level were negatively associated with COPD, but being married was associated with higher odds of COPD,” reported co-author Lilia Fuller-Thomson.

These findings highlight the importance of screening older obese patients for COPD despite no history of smoking, the researchers said.