Unfortunately, disease often does not stay tucked neatly into one part of the body. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), it has long been known Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) affects your heart. While COPD is a disease of the lungs, it also has harmful effects on the heart.
What Is COPD?
According to NHLBI, “COPD often involves destruction of lung tissue, called emphysema, as well as narrowed airways, persistent cough, and mucus production, known as chronic obstructive bronchitis. These abnormalities impair the flow of air in the lungs and make breathing more difficult.” While some COPD patients have only one of these conditions, most all have both.
This chronic condition is not reversible, but oxygen therapy and other treatments can improve daily life. The American Lung Association states COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., yet many people don’t know about it. If you show signs of COPD – the most common of which is shortness of breath during activities you could once perform easily – talk to your doctor.
The Heart/Lung Connection
The connection between the heart and lungs is clear: the heart receives blood from the body, pumps it into the lungs, receives it fully oxygenated from the lungs and pumps it back into the body. If you have COPD, this process is not as efficient.
A surprising finding from research published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January 2010 linked heart function and mild COPD. Until this point, researchers believed COPD didn’t affect heart function until the condition was moderate to severe. However, these results suggest that the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively is impacted when the condition is still mild and sometimes even before symptoms appear.
Can Treating Lung Disease Improve Heart Function?
Dr. Graham Barr, the assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, was a lead author of the paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine. He says that the findings suggest that treating lung disease could in fact improve heart function.
To learn more about treating COPD and keeping your heart, body and mind healthy, download the free guide "COPD 101" today.