Friday, January 8, 2016

FEV1: Biomarker of Health

Photo by CircaSassy.
This post is part of a series on Biomarkers of Health and Longevity

The most interesting research article I read last year was a report about the pace of aging among young adults as measured by a series of tests. 

The article listed 18 biomarkers of aging.  I only recognized 6 of them.  

In an effort to better safeguard my health, I decided to learn about all of these biomarkers. 

The biomarker FEV1 is an abbreviation for a common pulmonary function test.  In other words, FEV1 measures lung health. 

FEV is short for Forced Expiratory Volume.  The 1 indicates the duration of 1 second. 


How is the test administered?

The patient usually wears a nose clip and then is given spirometer, which has a mouth piece attached to a tube that is attached to a measuring device. (Today's version are much fancier than the spirometer pictured above.) 

After taking a full, deep breath (maximum inspiration), the patient forcably exhales into the tube. The amount of air is measured for 1 second. 

How are the results interpreted?

Then the result is a percentage of air predicted for height, weight, and ethnicity.  Here is a breakdown of the test results:


  • FEV1 greater 80% of predicted= normal
  • FEV1 60% to 79% of predicted = Mild obstruction
  • FEV1 40% to 59% of predicted = Moderate obstruction
  • FEV1 less than 40% of predicted = Severe obstruction
The test is commonly performed to determine the presence of (but not limited to) the following: 
  • asthma
  • COPD
  • cystic fibrosis
  • pulmonary fibrosis 
The FEV1 test can exclude lung problems as the cause for shortness of breath (which may be a heart problem instead). FEV1 can also be administered to measure how well medicines are working to improve or maintain lung health. 

[Note: I am not a physician. This post only seeks to raise awareness; it does not provide medical advice. Please see a licensed medical professional if you have concerns about your health.]

Why should physicians measure FEV1?

Why should people worry about their lung health, especially as they age? 

The CDC reports the following prevalence for COPD in 2000 in the US: 

"Overall, 6.3% of U.S. adults (an estimated 15 million) have been told by a health-care provider that they have COPD (age-adjusted prevalence: 6.0%) (Table 1). Prevalence of COPD increased, from 3.2% among those aged 18–44 years to >11.6% among those aged ≥65 years." (emphasis added)

It's significant to note that chronic lower respiratory diseases became the third leading cause of death in 2008. 

If you smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke, if you work or live in an environment with air pollution, if you have shortness of breath, if you have allergies, or if you have a history of respiratory problems, please work with your physician to improve your lung health. 


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