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Heart Health Awareness Month: Heart Failure and COPD


February is Heart Health Awareness month.

A person with heart failure (HF or CHF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, (COPD)  may find it difficult to decipher which condition is causing their shortness of breath.  The primary symptom of both conditions are very similar to one another. Below is an explanation of how the diseases affect different anatomy.

HF or CHF occurs when the heart muscle struggles to pump enough blood, which decreases the supply of oxygen and blood to the rest of the body. High blood pressure, heart attacks, coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathy can all cause heart failure.

Symptoms of Heart Failure:

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Wheezing or Coughing
  • Tiredness or Fatigue
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Confusion
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Sudden Weight Gain

The most common form of heart failure takes place in the left ventricle, called, left-sided heart failure.

COPD does not cause left-sided heart failure directly but could cause further damage to the already stressed left ventricle due to the low levels of oxygen in the blood.

Heart failure will cause excess fluid to build up in the lungs which in turn, causes even greater shortness of breath for a person with COPD.

Symptoms of COPD:

  • Shortness of Creath
  • Constant Coughing, sometimes called “Smoker’s Cough”
  • Not being able to take a deep breath
  • Wheezing and tightness in your chest when you breathe in and out
  • Excess production of mucus in your lungs

COPD is usually due to long-term lung diseases known as chronic bronchitis and emphysema that in turn, can be caused by smoking, air pollutants or genetics.

Severe COPD occurs when oxygen in the blood drops to extremely low levels, which will cause heart failure to the right ventricle of the heart.

This condition is called cor pulmonale or right-sided heart failure.  When this takes place, it leads to pulmonary hypertension, the change in blood pressure inside the pulmonary artery walls.  The high blood pressure inside the pulmonary arteries will, eventually cause stress on heart’s right ventricle causing heart failure.

If you experience any of the above symptoms, on a frequent basis, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.  Early recognition of the disease reduces the amount of damage to the body.

American Heart Association


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