Breathlessness: A Shared Manifestation Of Heart Failure & COPD


COPD is a progressive lung condition, whereas heart failure results from the inability of the heart to pump a sufficient amount of oxygenated blood necessary to maintain the vitality of tissues and organs. The two distinct medical conditions affect different organ systems but often resemble each other in terms of symptoms. Of the many signs, breathlessness is a common symptom of COPD and heart failure. The intricacies of COPD and heart failure can significantly impact the quality of life if left untreated, reducing productivity and activity. In severe cases, life-threatening emergencies might result. According to statistical reports, the prevalence of heart failure in patients with COPD appears to be 18.8 %, compared to 1.6 % in those without COPD. Revive Research Institute is one of the clinical research organizations in the United States that works towards bridging the gap between pharmaceuticals and patients through clinical trials. Participate in COPD clinical trials to resume unobstructed breathing with novel therapies. 

Continue reading the blog to gain a closer look at COPD and heart failure, commonly suggested tips to mitigate the risk of heart failure and COPD and much more. 

Relationship between COPD and Heart:

The interlink between the cardio-respiratory system influences the mortality rate. The two vital organs inside the body the heart, and lungs, are the major components of the cardio-respiratory system, responsible for gaseous exchange, and removal of waste products. 

The mechanism is such that the oxygen inhaled by the lungs takes its passage through the bloodstream and heart, delivering oxygen to the cells necessary to function. In exchange, the carbon dioxide produced by the cells rides up to the heart, and from there to the lungs, where it is eventually breathed out. 

Hence, any condition that impacts the heart will eventually affect lung function, or vice versa. 

The Impact Of COPD on Heart:

According to statistical analysis, women and men with COPD are twice as likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than those without COPD. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), COPD is one of the severe lung conditions responsible for heart failure. 

Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction frequently accompanies chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), leading to inadequate treatment and poorer prognoses. In patients with both conditions, emerging therapies for heart failure with reduced ejection fraction might hold heightened significance.

What Do COPD and Heart Failure Look Like?

COPD is a progressive lung disease that encompasses a group of conditions, primarily including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD often results from long-term exposure to irritants, particularly cigarette smoke, air pollution, and occupational dust or chemicals. While there is no cure for COPD, treatments can help manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. 

Heart failure, on the other hand, can result from various underlying causes, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart valve disorders, and certain medical conditions. 

Commonly Shared Symptoms Of COPD and Heart Failure:

Trouble breathing or dyspnea is a typical hallmark of COPD and heart failure. It can also happen in other circumstances, such as physical exertion, a cold, allergies, extreme anxiety, and stress.

Medical conditions that may initiate acute dyspnea are:

  • Flu-like illness
  • Anxiety
  • Exercise
  • Anaphylaxis

Conditions associated with chronic dyspnea are:

  • Asthma
  • COPD
  • Heart failure 

Besides dyspnea, other commonly shared symptoms are:

  • Fatigue 
  • Wheezing 
  • Coughing
  • Swelling (edema)
  • Difficulty sleeping

10 Tips for managing COPD & Heart Failure:

A series of steps are required to navigate through heart failure. In general, the suggested steps are:

  1. Accurate Diagnosis
  2. Detect early exacerbations on hospitalization
  3. Call out specialized physicians on board
  4. Modify the disease substrate in young individuals to avoid disease progression
  5. Apply and intensify therapies accordingly
  6. Provide patient education and ensure compliance
  7. Setup feedback loops to avoid mismanagement in case of rehospitalization
  8. Schedule an early follow-up appointment before discharge
  9. Treat and manage comorbidities
  10. Consider at-home ancillary support service

Medical Recommendations to Alleviate COPD and Heart Failure Symptoms:

An efficient management and treatment plan is essential to comprehend the connection between COPD and heart failure. Each case is distinct. While some individuals may have mild heart failure and severe COPD, others may have severe heart failure and mild COPD. To relieve breathing difficulties, dilating the airways is the main focus of treatment for those with COPD. Other objectives for heart failure treatment aim to lessen the strain on the heart. Patients with heart failure and COPD may benefit from taking the following drugs to ease their breathing symptoms:

  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone or methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol) 
  • Antibiotics (to eliminate bacterial infections)
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Non-invasive positive pressure ventilation, a form of machine-assisted breathing
  • Mechanical ventilation or temporary life support
  • IV medicines to ease heart strain

Life Style Modifications:

Besides pharmacological treatments, altering practices such as smoking and adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly help mitigate the risk of disease progression. Consulting health professionals in case of breathing difficulties is essential to seek and treat the root cause before severe conditions actively progress into medical emergencies.

Also Read: Ways to Avoid and Prevent Urine Dribbling


In summary, while COPD and heart failure are distinct conditions, they can be related when severe COPD predisposes to pulmonary heart disease due to the chronic strain on the right side of the heart, attributed to pulmonary circulation issues. Early detection and management of COPD can help reduce the risk of developing heart failure. It’s crucial for individuals with COPD and mild heart failure symptoms to get regular medical care and follow their doctor’s recommendations to manage both their lung and heart health.

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