Joint effects of pulmonary function and aerobic power on survival in a cohort of healthy adults

Charles Claude Miller, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Objective measurements of physical fitness and pulmonary function are related individually to long-term survival, both in healthy people and in those who are ill. These factors are furthermore known to be related to one another physiologically in people with pulmonary disease, because advanced pulmonary disease causes ventilatory limitation to exercise. Healthy people do not have ventilatory limitation to exercise, but rather have ventilatory reserve. The relationship between pulmonary function and exercise performance in healthy people is minimal. Exercise performance has been shown to modify the effect of pulmonary function on mortality in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but the relationship between these factors in healthy people has not been studied and is not known. The purpose of this study is to quantify the joint effects of pulmonary function and exercise performance as these bear on mortality in a cohort of healthy adults. This investigation is an historical cohort study over 20 years of follow-up of 29,624 adults who had complete preventive medicine, spirometry and treadmill stress examinations at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas. In 20 years of follow-up, there were 738 evaluable deaths. Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV$\sb1$) percent of predicted, treadmill time in minutes percent of predicted, age, gender, body mass index, baseline smoking status, serum glucose and serum total cholesterol were all significant, independent predictors of mortality risk. There were no frank interactions, although age had an important increasing effect on the risk associated with smoking when other covariates were controlled for in a proportional-hazards model. There was no confounding effect of exercise performance on pulmonary function. In agreement with the pertinent literature on independent effects, each unit increase in FEV$\sb1$ percent predicted was associated with about eight tenths of a percent reduction in adjusted mortality rate. The concept of physiologic reserve is useful in interpretation of the findings. Since pulmonary function does not limit exercise tolerance in healthy adults, it is reasonable to expect that exercise tolerance would not modify the effect of pulmonary function on mortality. Epidemiologic techniques are useful for elucidating physiological correlates of mortality risk.

Subject Area

Public health|Statistics|Surgery

Recommended Citation

Miller, Charles Claude, "Joint effects of pulmonary function and aerobic power on survival in a cohort of healthy adults" (1993). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9422047.