The Reason You Need to Worry About Your COPD Damaging Your Heart.


The Reason You Need to Worry About Your COPD Damaging Your Heart.

Your heart and lungs are codependent on one another for their survival the most. It is easy to understand that a connection between the diseases that affect them exists. Shortness of breath might be your biggest sign that one or the other is under stress. COPD doesn’t just impact your lungs, it indirectly impacts your heart too.

The Hidden Link between COPD and CVD (Cardiovascular Diseases)

There are several mechanisms that result in damage to the heart. The strongest connection is however the understanding that when Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases affect the lungs, the lungs become incapable of absorbing the required amount of oxygen. There is a decline in the oxygen level in blood because either the airways are blocked (chronic bronchitis) or the alveoli sacs are incapable of absorbing as much oxygen as they should (emphysema).

When there is a decline in the level of oxygen, several cardiac events can occur-

            – Myocardial Infarction/Heart Attack

The heart doesn’t get oxygen via blood and a part of the heart muscle gets permanently damaged.

            – Angina

The heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygenated blood. The most common symptom is chest pain. This event can lead to an infarction if it gets ignored.

            – Heart failure

The heart cannot make up the oxygen supply that the body organs require because it is slowing down. This leads to retention of fluid in the lungs and can decrease oxygen absorption further still.

            – Arrhythmias

The lowering of oxygen levels in the blood can lead to abnormal pumping of the heart. The inflammation from COPD and oxidative imbalance further trigger damage to the heart tissue.

Sometimes the decline in oxygen levels can even impact the blood supply to the brain and this can cause the occurrence of a stroke.

Link’s Mechanism of Action

A lot of thought and effort has been placed to learn the ways in which COPD might cause cardiac diseases. Read some of the mechanisms-


The process of aging impacts how our bodies react to external threats (inflammation and cellular proliferation). Additionally, there’s a decline in elastin protein that directly lowers the flexibility of the lungs and the arteries.

Those with COPD have faster-aging processes at the cellular level (cells have a shorter life). This is increasingly associated with the stiffening of arteries, leading to an increase in arterial plaque formation (precursor to arterial blockage).

Patients who have COPD also show a lowering in the function of Sirtuin 1 (anti-aging molecule). This molecule has a protective effect against arterial deterioration and plaque formation.

            -Oxygen Deficiency

COPD-assisted lowering of oxygen supply has consequences of its own. The deficiency causes oxidative stress, inflammation in the whole body, an increase in the cellular adhesion molecules in the epithelial lining, and foam cell formation. This cellular picture leads to an environment that is ripe for clot formation in the arteries.

Another function of this deficiency is the increase in the disruption of endothelial lining and the thickness of pulmonary vessel linings. This eventually leads to pulmonary hypertension.


It is interesting to note that the medicines that provide relief to COPD patients are damaging for patients with cardiac diseases.

Beta-adrenergic therapy works to widen the airways to ensure that lungs receive air. Another effect of this therapy is that it stresses the cardiac rhythm. Hence this treatment may lead to ventricular arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation.

Theophylline-based treatment plan can also cause atrial fibrillation.

               -Smoking-related inflammation

Inflammation in the airways can occur because of different particles in the air as well as smoking. Smokers introduce smoke particles into their bodies and this causes inflammation in the entire body. This particular inflammation is intimately related to the formation and then dislodging of the plaque. The effect is two-fold in this scenario because when you smoke; you damage your lungs and start COPD-related inflammation.

The risks of a cardiac event increase in this mechanism because whenever there is an emerging/acute COPD incident-the risk of a clot breaking off from its place increases. A mobile plaque/clot can reach many organs and may lead to cardiac events.


Interestingly, the diagnosis of COPD can hide a cardiovascular disease from the physician. One of the major symptoms i.e. shortness of breath is found in both disease types. Spirometry doesn’t differentiate between cardiac or COPD-associated shortness of breath. A patient with cardiac disease may go undiscovered because the physician only considers COPD.

The coexistence of these two diseases together is dangerous for health. For this reason, experts suggest vigorous history taking and a series of testing to discover cardiac diseases in COPD patient. Testing normally includes ECG, chest x-ray, CT scan, BNP and Echocardiography (tests are done based on history and presenting symptoms).

Impact on life

The concurrent occurrence of heart and lung diseases can decrease the quality of your life. The presence of both diseases at once is more likely in the middle age group.

The body is weakened, and tiredness persists. The patient is also susceptible to depression and anxiety.

Drug administration is a balancing act more than anything because the cardiologists and pulmonologists have to make sure that the cardiac and pulmonary systems are working perfectly. Oxygen therapy is often indicated when there is a severe decline in blood oxygen.

Preventing the Link from Triggering

For good quality of life, it is better to take care of your body before it’s too late. Prevention in this case is lifesaving.

            -Habit Change

Smoking is the main concern for both diseases. The effects of smoking are vast as explained previously. It is much better to focus on a positive habit like exercising. Exercising will also make sure that you lose weight.

            -Diet Change

A diet that comprises excessive carbohydrates, sodium, and a high LDL level is a danger to the heart of a patient suffering from COPD. These two elements also increase the body weight and thus the stress on your heart and lungs. A diet change to a high fiber and protein diet with some fat and low carbohydrates is suggested. Alcohol consumption should also be lowered.

The changes in your lifestyle can reduce the chances of the two diseases occurring together. It is important to remember that treatment of these 2 together is stressful to the body. It is better if care is taken to prevent their entire occurrence.


There are multiple links between COPD and CVD. It is important to remember that the prevention of COPD will also positively affect the cardiovascular system. Similarly, early detection of COPD can help stop this disease from potentially impacting the heart functions.

We urge you to learn more on COPD prevention so that you can increase the quality of your life.

Learn more about this link here and here.

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