Does COPD Cause Heart Complications?

The Link Between COPD And Heart Complications

If you suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), you probably know by now that COPD is associated with multiple other conditions, including heart complication.

Some of these conditions are a result of COPD treatments, such as the increased risk of osteoporosis due to the use of steroids.

Other conditions are a direct result of the disorder itself, such as a collapsed lung (pneumothorax), which can occur spontaneously due to damage to the lung’s structure, frequent lung infections, and right-sided heart failure (cor pulmonale).

The question is "Does COPD cause heart complications?"

Heart Failure – The Two Common Types

There are a few types of heart failure, but the most two most common types of heart failure are left-sided heart failure and right-sided heart failure.

Left-sided heart failure:

  • Left-sided heart failure typically occurs as a result of hypertension or coronary artery disease. While it can also occur concurrently in a patient with COPD, the COPD is not known to cause left-sided heart failure.
  • Left-sided heart failure can be further subdivided into systolic and diastolic heart failure, and these types are differentiated based on if the left ventricle can’t contract normally (systolic) or can’t relax normally (diastolic).

Right-sided heart failure:

  • COPD often causes right-sided heart failure. The lungs are responsible for pumping blood into the right ventricle. If breathing is not efficient, nor will the blood being pumped into the heart. Eventually, this will cause the ventricle not to beat efficiently, causing the right-sided heart failure.

Differentiating the Symptoms

Because you have COPD, it is more likely that your COPD caused right-sided heart failure.

Though, if you also have hypertension and coronary artery disease, you are not immune to left-sided heart failure. Meaning you could have both types of heart failure simultaneously.

It is helpful to understand the symptoms of both types of heart failure, as they differ depending on which type is exacerbated.

Left-sided heart failure symptoms include:

  • A cough, which may be productive.
  • Decreased urine production, especially during exacerbations of heart failure./li>
  • Difficulty lying down due to shortness of breath (orthopnea).
  • General fatigue.
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities (irregular or rapid pulse, or palpitations).
  • General shortness of breath.
  • Waking up at night due to shortness of breath (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea).
  • Weight gain due to fluid retention.

Right-sided heart failure symptoms include:

  • General shortness of breath.
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles due to fluid retention.
  • An increase in urination at night.
  • Pronounced neck veins (jugular vein distension).
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities (rapid pulse or palpitations).
  • General fatigue and weakness.
  • Fainting.
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Treatment of COPD Heart Complications

Regardless, whether you have both types of heart failure or just right-sided heart failure, your treatment plan will be similar.

You may be recommended:

  • A regimen of cardiac rehab to strengthen your heart while also strengthening your lungs.
  • Make certain lifestyle changes.
  • Be prescribed medications to manage symptoms and maybe even strengthen your heart.

In very extreme cases, you may have an implanted device placed to help regulate your heartbeat.

Lifestyle Changes You Can Make

Although, there are many changes that you can make in regards to your lifestyle, from exercising to incorporating new lifestyle habits, here are a few you can make right away:

  • If you haven’t already, quit smoking. According to the American Heart Association, people who quit smoking are more likely to see heart failure symptoms improve.
  • Lose weight if you need to.
  • Limit your fluid intake, as recommended by your physician.
  • Begin a cardiac rehab program, which will promote exercise in a structured, monitored environment.
  • Get adequate rest.
  • Get pneumonia and influenza vaccines.

Medications To Aid With COPD Heart Complications

If your lifestyle changes haven't been effective, your physician will likely select medications based on your heart's condition.

The list below is drug classes that will help manage your heart failure. The use of these drug classes has been shown to preserve or even improve heart function:

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), quinapril (Accupril).
  • Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs): losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan).
  • Beta blockers: metoprolol succinate (Toprol XL), carvedilol (Coreg).
  • Aldosterone antagonists: spironolactone (Aldactone).
  • Diuretics: Furosemide (Lasix), bumetanide (Bumex), torsemide (Demadex).

It is important to note that all prescribed medications must be taken. This is called compliance.

You can do your part in ensuring that your medications work to the best of their ability by being compliant with your medication regimen.

Heart devices will be implanted if heart failure has caused serious dysrhythmias; this is beyond the scope of this article.