COPD in Non-smoking Elderly Men at Sea Level and High Altitude: Comparing Anthropometric Characteristics and Physiological Responses

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Angel Moreno & Omar Espinoza-Navarro


The World Health Organization considers cigarette smoke as a major risk factor and causal agent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); however, smoke from biomass in poorly ventilated environments may be the major causative agent in developing countries. There is little epidemiological evidence of COPD in relation to the use of biomass fuels and altitude of the place of residence, and there is no record of the morphological and physiological characteristics of patients with COPD living at different altitudes. The objective of this research was to compare a) morphological characteristics: weight, height and body mass index (BMI) and b) physiological responses: spirometric record, heart rate, oxygen saturation and hemoglobin concentration in a sample (n=30) of adults aged between 60-75 years, non smokers, exposed to smoke from biomass fuels, diagnosed with COPD, living at sea level (San Miguel de Azapa, 580 m.a.s.l, n = 10) and high altitude (Putre, 3500 meters, n = 20). The results among residents from sea level versus high altitude showed no significant differences in morpho-anthropometric variables such as weight (70.5 ± 6.8/69.7 ± 6.1), height (1.58 ± 0.08/1.56 ± 0.05) and BMI (29.1 ± 2.5 / 28.5 ± 1.9). Similar behavior was observed in the spirometric records of FVC (2.66 ± 0.54 / 2.48 ± 0.40) and FEV1 (1.86 ± 0.72 / 1.84 ± 0.55). Significant differences were observed for physiological variables such as heart rate (65 ± 5/90 ± 3), oxygen saturation (93 ± 2.7 / 79 ± 4) and hemoglobin concentration (14 ± 2/19 ± 2), respectively. These results manifest the greater physiological effort made by individuals from high altitude to cope both environmental and related from COPD hypoxia. We conclude that there are distinct physiological responses among patients with COPD living at high altitude and sea level.

KEY WORDS: COPD; Altitude; Anthropometry; Elderly men; Chile.

How to cite this article

MORENO, A. & ESPINOZA-NAVARRO, O. COPD in non-smoking elderly men at sea level and high altitude: comparing anthropometric characteristics and physiological responses. Int. J. Morphol., 31(2):618-622, 2013.