The study is based on a large database: lung measurements of 243,465 non-smokers in ten European population studies, two of which were Swedish. Study participants were born between 1884 and 1996. Lung capacity measurements were taken between 1978 and 2009, when study participants were 20 to 94 years old.
Behind the study, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, is an extensive European research collaboration, in which the Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg was involved.
The results were surprising and satisfactory because they show a gradual improvement in lung capacity, with each group doing measurably better than the previous one. This has been the case in Europe since the late nineteenth century.
It was exciting to see that you couldn’t have a better lung function unless you were born a year later. It’s been an improvement year after year, says Louie Vanfletteren, MD, chief medical officer of the Charcoal Center at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and one of the study’s lead authors.
The improvement in lung capacity was largely linear. The researchers concluded that this means that the patient’s year of birth may need to be taken into account when diagnosing carbon and other lung diseases.
The findings are therefore expected to influence the diagnostic criteria for many lung diseases. With lung function improving sharply, researchers report that healthcare needs to change its view of what is considered normal.
If a particular lung function was normal for a 50-year-old man in 1950, the same value for a man of the same age today may not be considered good. It comes down to the question of what counts as normal, Lowie Vanfleteren tells TT.
If the diagnostic criteria remain unchanged, it could mean that too many patients are judged to meet the criteria for carbon monoxide, at the same time that there is also a risk of systematically underestimating the severity of lung disease.
New sports records
The study was conducted within the framework of the European Lung Society’s research collaboration with researchers from Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Austria.
In the margin, it can be seen that the results can also be an explanation for breaking new records, for example, running and swimming. Improved lung capacity means better oxygen uptake.
It sure plays a role. But that’s not the only factor, says Louis Vanfletterene.
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