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Healthier Lifestyle Can Cut COPD Symptoms

Diet, exercise and smoking cessation counseling also proved cost-effective, study finds

WEDNESDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- A lifestyle intervention program that promoted exercise, healthy eating and quitting smoking improved the health of people with mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and was cost-effective, a new study shows.

The patients in the study were randomly assigned to receive usual care or to participate in an interdisciplinary, community-based program (INTERCOM). The first four months of the intervention program featured intensive lifestyle moderation. That was followed by 20 months of less intensive maintenance in which the patients were offered guidance but not rigorous intervention.

After 24 months, the patients in the intervention program showed significant improvements in health status, exercise capacity, and breathing problems (dyspnea), compared to those in the usual care group.

Among those in the intervention group, improvements were noted at four months in COPD-specific quality of life, walk distance, exercise capacity, dyspnea, handgrip force and fat free mass index. After 24 months, significant improvements remained in exercise capacity, dyspnea and disease-specific quality of life.

During the two-year study, the overall cost per patient was about $3,686 more for the intervention group. But the researchers noted that the cost for patients in the intervention group is "front-loaded" and that maintenance costs were minimal.

"This is the first randomized controlled trial showing that community-based pulmonary rehabilitation is feasible and effective, even for patients with less advanced airflow obstruction, and that the INTERCOM program improves functional exercise capacity and health-related quality of life during 24 months relative to usual care at acceptable costs," Annemie Schols, a professor of nutrition and metabolism in chronic diseases at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, said in an American Thoracic Society news release.

"The INTERCOM program is based upon an integrated view on pulmonary and extra pulmonary manifestations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease resulting from smoking, suboptimal diet, inactivity and disease susceptibility. These new findings from the INTERCOM trial could lead to a shift in clinical medicine and public health towards personalized lifestyle intervention," Schols said.

The study was presented this week at the international conference of the American Thoracic Society, in San Diego.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about COPD.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, May 20, 2009

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