Shorter leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is associated with reduced health-related quality of life and increased risk for acute exacerbations (AEs) and mortality in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Increased physical activity and exercise capacity are associated with reduced risk for AEs and death. However, the relationships between LTL and physical activity, exercise capacity, and AEs in COPD are unknown.
Data from 3 COPD cohorts were examined: Cohort 1 (n = 112, physical activity intervention trial), Cohorts 2 and 3 (n = 182 and 294, respectively, separate observational studies). Subjects completed a 6-minute walk test (6MWT) and provided blood for LTL assessment using real-time PCR. Physical activity was measured as average daily step count using an accelerometer or pedometer. Number of self-reported AEs was available for 1) the year prior to enrollment (Cohorts 1 and 3) and 2) prospectively after enrollment (all cohorts). Multivariate models examined associations between LTL and average daily step count, 6MWT distance, and AEs.
A significant association between longer LTL and increased 6MWT distance was observed in the three combined cohorts (β = 3x10 -5, p = 0.045). No association between LTL and average daily step count was observed. Shorter LTL was associated with an increased number of AEs in the year prior to enrollment (Cohorts 1 and 3 combined, β = -1.93, p = 0.04) and with prospective AEs (Cohort 3, β = -1.3388, p = 0.0003).