The Link Between Heart Attacks and COPD

A study from the Columbia University Medical Center suggests that even a mild lung condition can have an effect on the health of your heart and put you at an higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is already known to cause a significant amount of strain on the heart, but in general, there is still more research that needs to be done on exactly how much damage mild COPD can cause on the heart.

If you have an advanced form of COPD, your heart will try to work harder to get oxygen to all the cells in your body. After working harder over a period, it will begin to weaken, and heart failure begins to develop. This is another danger for people who do not realize that they have COPD until the disease advanced and became obvious. At this point, heart strain can already be leading to heart failure. Because of this, having high blood pressure might also be a sign of COPD, along with the trademark symptoms of getting winded and exhausted after only a little bit of physical exertion.

Moderate to severe COPD is usually when a doctor will prescribe the use of oxygen therapy to help the situation. Oxygen therapy will help replenish the amount of oxygen in your blood, as well as help you exhale the carbon dioxide. When there is enough oxygen in your lungs, your heart won't need to work as hard. Your doctor will be able to determine how much oxygen is in your bloodstream by doing some blood work tests.

The reverse can also be true – heart failure can also cause a case of COPD, but the case of heart failure has to be severe. Your heart and lungs work together closely to keep your body at homeostasis, or at the balance that it needs to continue for you to survive and stay healthy. The imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your lungs causes a chain reaction of health problems, which can begin to get out of control if they aren't caught quickly and treated appropriately.

It can be hard for physicians to determine which came first – COPD or heart failure – if both conditions are about at equal severity. If one is more advanced than the other, it's evident that the more severe case caused the disease with the more mild case. It's also possible for someone to have a heart attack, and the underlying COPD is discovered as a result. This is because COPD can fly under the radar for a long time without being diagnosed, since many of the symptoms might be subtle or seem deceptively “normal.”

You might have heard about all the bad things that smoking can do to you, precisely the effects it can have on your lungs in causing lung diseases. Smoking can also affect your heart, either directly causing heart failure or other cardiovascular diseases, causing heart failure through COPD, or even both.

Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about COPD, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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