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COPD Tied to Tiny Brain Bleeds, Study Finds

FRIDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- People with the lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at increased risk for bleeding in the brain, a new study finds.

Researchers looked at 165 people with COPD and 645 people with normal lung function and found that those with COPD were more likely to have what are called cerebral microbleeds.

The more severe a patient's breathing problems, the more likely they were to have microbleeds, according to the study, published online July 19 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Cerebral microbleeds are an indicator of disease in the brain's small blood vessels (cerebral small vessel disease), which is an important cause of age-related mental decline and disability.

It was known that people with COPD are at increased risk for large vessel disease, but these new findings "indicate that COPD might affect both large and small vessels," study author Lies Lahousse, of Ghent University Hospital in Belgium, said in a journal news release.

The results also show that methods of preventing cerebral microbleeds in COPD patients need to be developed, Lahousse said.

Although the study found a link between having COPD and higher risk of cerebral microbleeds, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

SOURCE: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, news release, July 19, 2013