Things to Start During National Heart Month

February is National Heart Month, and as you know, whatever happens to your lungs has a long term and short term effect on your ticker. All of the systems in your body work together (the endocrine system, immune system, nervous system, etc.) and all depend on each other to keep your body working and balanced, but your heart depends on your lungs to bring in the oxygen – a very important job. If your lungs aren't doing their job, everything else starts to suffer very quickly.

During National Heart Month, the American Heart Association works to raise awareness about heart disease, which is the number one killer of women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's the leading cause of death or all types of cancer.

Someone with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease may have a much higher risk of developing this disease. When your lungs can't provide enough oxygen to your heart, your heart is forced to work harder. The strain on the heart and the imbalance of gases in your blood – an overabundance of carbon dioxide and a lack of oxygen – can cause heart disease over time.

What can someone with COPD do to prevent heart disease?

To start simply, make sure you are taking your medicines to your doctor's instructions and paying attention to your body. If you are feeling more out of breath than usual, call your doctor to get checked out. You might need to have your dosage increased, or you might be getting sick. Catching a respiratory infection as quickly as possible will make a big difference.

Exacerbations in someone with severe COPD can take a toll. These are often brought on by illness, whether it's a bacterial infection such as acute bronchitis, or a viral chest cold. Your body can take over a month to recover from an exacerbation and you may have to spend some time in the hospital or you might require oxygen therapy. A COPD exacerbation is much like an asthma attack, but is spread out over a longer period of time and might not be as severe. Exacerbations can cause damage to your heart if you have too many over a period of time, or if you don't have them properly treated.

To prevent having these exacerbations, protect yourself from getting sick as much as you can. During cold and flu season, you might want to wear a mask if you have severe COPD and you need to go out where there will be a lot of people in one small area, such as the grocery store. Make sure you get your annual flu shot at the beginning of October, which is the beginning of flu season. Getting this as soon as possible is important, since it takes at least two weeks to take affect.

You might also look into other ways to stay healthy, such as eating right and getting some gentle exercise. Get your doctor's opinion about a light exercise and start eating foods that are high in anti-oxidants and vitamins, such as berries, apples and dark green vegetables.

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