November is COPD Awareness Month and a great time to review the relationship between lung disease and the heart.
COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, develops in people who have chronic bronchitis, emphysema or both. These diseases cause the lungs to function poorly when mucus in the lungs leads to inflammation or when parts of the lungs have been impaired. Exacerbations are extreme symptoms of COPD, such as shortness of breath or coughing, that require immediate medical care. A COPD exacerbation can be brought on for a multitude of reasons, such as tobacco use, a lung infection or exposure to air pollutants. With that in mind, COPD patients must think carefully before participating in many activities; maintaining good health is a daily challenge.
The heart connection
Many COPD patients also suffer from cardiovascular disease, and about 30% of COPD patients die of heart failure or stroke. Why?
We know that our lungs enable us to breathe. More specifically, the lungs bring oxygen to the blood, and the heart conveys this oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. If the lungs fail to oxygenate the blood sufficiently, as occurs in a COPD patient, blood vessels may become brittle or constricted. Before long, the heart pumps too weakly to do its job well, leading to further health problems. Even mild COPD can harm the heart, sometimes before COPD symptoms even appear. It is important that COPD patients not smoke or expose themselves to second-hand smoke. While smoking damages the lungs, it weakens the heart at the same time.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you may have COPD:
- Are you a smoker?
- Do you have a nagging cough?
- Do you often feel like you have trouble breathing?
- Are you unable to take a deep breath?
- Do you get winded during mild activity?
If you answered 'Yes' to any of these, you may want to consult your doctor. No matter what your health concerns are, Denton Regional Medical Center is here to help. Call us at 1-855-477-DRMC for a physician referral.