It is well-known that heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans. High blood pressure (hypertension) ranks fifth. Halfway between them, the lung condition known as chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is the third most likely killer in the United States. 24 million Americans have COPD and it can have a direct impact on the cardiovascular system by contributing to heart failure, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and stroke.
The heart and the lungs work together to make sure oxygen is distributed throughout the body. When the lungs are hampered by COPD or other factors, a strain on the cardiovascular system is created. That is why COPD is a definite risk in connection with heart disease.
What Is COPD?
COPD refers to several abnormal breathing conditions. These problems in the lungs cause problems for the heart and other organs throughout the body. The lung diseases that comprise the major types of COPD are progressive and chronic bronchitis, emphysema and non-reversible asthma, called refractory asthma.
Sufferers of chronic bronchitis are subject to long-term, mucus producing coughing. Emphysema is a long-term destruction of the lungs in which the lung tissue is gradually damaged over an extended period of time.
The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that people who develop late-onset asthma, or asthma that appears in adulthood, are fifty-seven percent more likely to have cardiovascular issues than those without asthma. Asthma in adults can result in declining lung function that impedes proper breathing.
COPD Damages the Cardiovascular System
Emphysema, caused by damage to air sacs in the lungs, can result in pressure in the arteries between the heart and lungs. This can result in Group 3 pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure in the blood vessels between the heart and lungs.
When low oxygen levels in the blood vessels in the lungs caused by COPD occur, a strain can be placed on the right ventricle of the heart. Accumulation of fluid in the legs, angles, abdomen in lungs is common in right-sided heart failure. The right side of the heart is unable to pump properly and that causes the accumulation of fluid because of the strain created by COPD.
The irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, or AFib, can also result from COPD. When AFib occurs, the heartbeat fibrillates and does not move blood properly from the atria to the heart’s lower chambers. The heartbeats in the upper and lower chambers are out of sync. The presence of COPD contributes to the probability of AFib because of the damage to blood vessels that may cause uneven heartbeats.
COPD Causes and Symptoms
The most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. Smoking not only causes deterioration of the lungs but also puts a strain on the heart, making it bad for both vital organs. Environmental causes include air pollution, exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke and other airborne particulates. In rare cases, the cause is genetic.
COPD symptoms include shortness of breath, chronic coughing, wheezing, fatigue and excess mucus production. Numerous respiratory infections and a blue tint to lips or fingernails are other signs.
Treatment Important for Heart Health
Since smoking is the most common cause of COPD, eliminating that habit tops the list of ways to treat it. In addition to the impact of smoking on the lungs, it is also a major contributor to peripheral vascular disease or PVD, which narrows the blood vessels. The nicotine in cigarettes raises blood pressure, increases heart rate and constricts the arteries throughout the body. Eliminating smoking can be very difficult. Physicians and cardiologists can help in developing an effective method for each individual.
Another option, pulmonary rehabilitation programs, can be beneficial for the heart. They incorporate structuring an exercise program and instituting a proper diet, both good for the cardiovascular system.
Other treatment methods include medication that improve breathing and help in other ways. Depending upon severity of the COPD, surgery is also an option.
To learn more about the impact of COPD on the heart, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.