Even Mild Lung Disease Affects the Heart
You may be surprised to learn that lung and heart diseases are closely intertwined.
A recent study found that even mild lung disease can affect the heart’s ability to pump blood.
“It suggests that a larger subset of heart failure may be due to lung disease, said Dr. R. Graham Barr, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center. It has been known for a while that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) negatively affects the heart. However, this new study shows that “even a mild decrease in lung function affects heart function,” according to Dr. Barr.
How the Lungs and Heart Work Together
When inhaled, oxygen travels through the lungs and into the bloodstream. The blood then travels to the heart, pumped to the rest of the body.
If your blood isn’t receiving enough oxygen from your lungs, the heart has to work harder to pump enough oxygen throughout the body. Overworking the heart for an extended period of time will wear it out more quickly.
This is why many lung disease sufferers experience heart problems as the disease progresses.
What Can You Do?
Oxygen therapy makes breathing easier and helps you absorb more oxygen into your bloodstream. Oxygen therapy helps prevent heart failure by increasing the oxygen delivered throughout your body.
An oximeter measures how much oxygen is in your blood, which tells you how much oxygen you need. Your doctor sets the oxygen flow rate to provide the proper amount of oxygen, so don’t adjust the rate unless directed to your physician.
Higher flow rates typically do not help and increase the risk of carbon buildup in the blood.
In addition to using supplemental oxygen, reducing stress can help your heart.
High-stress levels may tempt you to smoke, drink or eat junk food, which is hard on your heart. If you can reduce stress, you’re less likely to turn to heart-harming vices.
The stress response in your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, hormones that can cause belly fat.
These hormones trigger high blood pressure, palpitations and elevated blood sugars, which, over a long period of time, “put strain on our heart and body, and increase cardiovascular risk in the immediate and long-term,” says Steve Tan, M.D., director of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program at the California Health and Longevity Institute.
It is important to be aware of the higher risk for heart problems when you have lung disease. Being aware of a potential problem allows you to take proactive measures to reduce your risk for an incident and regain control of your health.
Christine Kingsley, APRN is the Health and Wellness Director at the Lung Institute where she focuses on providing helpful online resources for people looking for information on various lung diseases, breathing exercises, and healthy lifestyle choices. She advocates for holistic care that involves working with your doctor to explore all options including traditional and alternative care while focusing on diet and exercise as proactive measures.