What is the connection between COPD & Cardiovascular Disease? How do you Diagnose with ECG Device?

Posted on May 10, 2019

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary-Disease) is a range of types of health conditions that affects the lungs and mainly individuals aged above forty years. It comprises diseases such as refractory asthma (a persistent type of asthma considered nonreversible), emphysema (destroys the lung tissues gradually), and chronic bronchitis (associated with continuous coughing and breathlessness as a result of mucus accumulation in the bronchial tubes).

The disease is one of the major concerns in the current medical industry. It’s also one of the most significant causes of death worldwide. According to statistics, it’s predicted to be the third most significant cause of death in the year 2020 from being the fourth in 2018. Perhaps, this is because it’s more linked to CVD (cardiovascular disease) than any other known disease. Both of them share similar symptoms and signs, pathophysiological processes, most of the causes, and risk factors. Additionally, individuals suffering from the condition are more likely to develop CVDs increasing the complexity of the disease. The rate of death as a result of cardiovascular complications to people having a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is greater as compared to the death rate connected to respiratory disorders alone.

COPD & Cardiovascular Disease


The following describes the connection between COPD and cardiac disease and the instruments used to monitor individuals suffering from the two conditions.

How it Affects Breathings and Cardiovascular Functions?

The diseases are connected to each other and can both cause similar symptoms. One of the symptoms includes breathlessness especially when one is exercising or doing physical activities such as walking for long distances or when climbing stairs. When a person has chronic respiratory diseases, because of severe damage to the lungs mainly because of smoking for many years, they cannot breathe all the air out of the lungs.

Such people must rest if they want to breathe in and out without difficulties. When not at rest, the air gets into the lungs before the last breath is exhaled out. This is what causes the sufferers of COPD to experience breathing problems.

A heart doesn’t work as expected when suffering from cardiac disease. Similar to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a person with heart disease when at rest can breathe without problems. When not resting, especially during physical activities, there is an increased flow of blood, and therefore the heart must do work faster and harder to keep up with the increased flow. When it cannot pump up faster, blood congests into the lungs. This causes one to have breathing problems.

Patients having one or more types of heart diseases can contract COPD and vice versa. The two can coexist frequently. Suffering from one can also affect the resulting outcome of the other.

Relationship with Heart Failure (Left-Sided)

To begin with, the heart-and-lungs operate together. The lungs get oxygen through breathing, feeds it to the bloodstream, and gives it to the heart in solution form. The heart then supplies it to other body tissues and organs which use it to produce energy for maintaining all life activities of an organism.

Most common causes of cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure (left-sided) are CAD and hypertension, not necessarily respiratory complications such as COPD. Also, the two conditions do not cause each other. They only influence one another.

A good example is when the heart receives blood from the lungs. Such blood, because the lungs are suffering from the chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders have a limited supply of oxygen. This puts a lot of strain to the heart when it needs to pump blood. The situation makes the disease to be worse.

Another situation is when the lungs receive a lot of fluid from the heart which suffers from left-sided heart failure. If you have COPD, such fluid can make breathing very difficult.

Relationship with Heart Failure (Right-Sided)

This condition is influenced by severe respiratory conditions such as COPD. It makes fluid to accumulate to various part of the body such as around the belly and the legs. A wide range of diseases other than chronic respiratory diseases is known to cause this type of heart failure.
Having both diseases, that is the cardiac disease and chronic obstructive lung disease can confuse a patient especially when they want to know which one is causing them a particular symptom. For instance, shortness of breath is caused by both conditions. You cannot, therefore, tell which disease is associated with the symptom.

This is when you’ll need help from your pulmonologist or doctor so that they can give you an examination leading to proper treatment.

How Doctors Diagnose and Treat Patients with COPD?

When a person experiences symptoms related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, they are referred to a professional lung specialist or pulmonologist who uses different types of tools and procedures to diagnose the condition.

Since the disease develops slowly over time, patients are advised to seek the right treatment early so as to slow or stop the development process. A physical examination is the first step towards accurate diagnosis. The medical history of a patient and that of their family is also viewed by the doctor before further tests are carried out.

The following are the common tests that can help your doctor differentiate cardiac disease from COPD.

• X-ray — This is done on the chest. If a patient has heart disease such as CHF (chronic heart failure), the fluid that is congested in the lungs will be able to be seen on X-ray. The lungs are very clear and look overinflated when chronic obstructive pulmonary-disease is present.

• Echo Test — This is also called echocardiogram. It evaluates the septum, valves, and chambers of the heart, and also the strength of pumping of the heart. All these structures are shown in the pictures provided by a test known as ultrasound.

• Pulmonary Function Test — These are common tests performed to check the level of breathing. Most pulmonologists use spirometry since it’s the commonly used test. They are used to determine whether COPD is present.

• CT Scan — This is more detailed than the x-ray. It shows the entire structure of the chest in an image. This helps to check the lungs for emphysema. Doctors can also determine whether surgery is the best option to treat chronic obstructive lung-disorders using this test.

• Arterial blood gas Test — One of the most significant tests to identify chronic lung disease. It’s used to check the amount of carbon (IV) oxide and oxygen in blood in which the lungs are able to provide. If there is less oxygen, it means you have COPD.

The following are some other services doctors use to determine whether a person has a chronic lung disease.

• Cardiac ECG Monitoring Service

This service is very important to patients having symptoms of heart disease. It’s used to observe the activity of the heart using ECG (electrocardiography). When at home, cardiac monitors can be worn for continuous monitoring only for short periods of time Data for the experienced symptoms is used by the doctor for further diagnosis.

• Long Term Holter Monitor

Although similar to cardiac monitors, these ones are more effective. They are worn continuously for a specified period of time, say 1 to 2 days, while monitoring and recording the ECG or the performance of the heart. Long term monitoring helps to identify complex conditions such as stroke, AF (atrial fibrillation) and other cardiovascular diseases.

Treatment Options for Cardiac Disease and COPD

After the pulmonologist or doctor has determined the disease, he or she will use various options to treat the patient. In case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, one of the treatment options is the use of medications (inhaled) called bronchodilators. These are known to open the branching tubes and networks of the lungs which conveys air to the alveoli (air sacs).
When a person is diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, many different medications are prescribed to prevent additional damage to the heart. Severe breathlessness due to the two conditions can be treated in a variety of ways including the following.

  • Use of antibiotics in situations when the main cause is infection due to bacteria
  • Corticosteroids (e.g. methylprednisolone) are given to patients with lung disease to reduce breathing difficulties
  • Use of supplemental air (oxygen)
  • Machine-aided breathing can be used

Doctors may suggest the use of life support machines or mechanical ventilation devices. These may be provided via various breathing tubes.

Other treatment methods are regarded as personal. If the patient is an active smoker, they have the option to stop smoking. This can help doctors deal with the two diseases effectively.

When one has both diseases, i.e. cardiac disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary-disease, various doctors may be involved — a pulmonologist, cardiologist, and primary-care physician. They can work as a team in the best way to diagnose and cure effectively.

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