Strengthen your Heart and Lungs during National Heart Month
February is National Heart Month, which raises awareness about heart health and how to prevent heart disease. One aspect of heart health many people overlook is your heart’s important connection to your lungs.
Your heart and lungs work as a team to provide your body with oxygen-rich blood through two important circuits:
- The pulmonary circuit pumps oxygen-poor blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs. There, it is cleaned and reoxygenated before being sent back to the heart.
- The systemic circuit then pumps the oxygen-rich blood from the left side of the heart to the rest of the body to give your other vital organs the oxygen they need. After the oxygen has been dispersed, the blood returns to the heart, and the process begins again.
Since these two circuits form a close connection between your heart, lungs and the rest of your body, shortness of breath, fatigue and other breathing problems can stem from either a pulmonary disease or heart disease.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease characterized by obstruction and inflammation of the lungs and airways. When the lungs become damaged or clogged, it’s difficult to breathe and transfer enough oxygen into your bloodstream.
With heart disease, the heart is weak and has difficulty delivering enough oxygen to other parts of the body. This can also cause feelings of fatigue or shortness of breath.
Since COPD and heart disease exhibit similar symptoms, it can be hard to distinguish between the different types of diseases. If you find yourself suffering from bronchitis, emphysema, asthma or difficulty breathing, be sure to talk to your doctor about possible causes and potential solutions.
How does your COPD affect your heart?
For those already diagnosed with COPD, it’s important to understand how the disease can also impact your heart.
COPD can contribute to heart disease, heart attacks or heart failure because it inhibits your lungs from providing your heart with the amount of oxygen your body needs. This causes a condition known as hypoxia when your body’s oxygen levels drop below an adequate supply. Then, if your heart doesn’t receive enough oxygen, you can be at risk of a heart attack.
Additionally, COPD can cause your pulmonary arteries to become stiff and narrow. These arteries carry blood from your heart to your lungs. Yet, as the arteries shrink, your heart has to work overtime to push blood through them. This added stress weakens the heart and can lead to heart failure.
Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to manage your COPD and improve your heart health.
Lessen COPD symptoms and prevent heart disease
Improving your heart and lungs can start with a few, basic lifestyle changes. Talk to your doctor about implementing one or more of the following options:
1. Quit smoking
Smoking is a leading cause of both heart disease and COPD. Eliminate the use of cigarettes or vapes, and protect yourself against exposure to secondhand smoke. Quitting smoking will help prevent further damage to your lungs or heart while also making you healthier in other aspects of your life.
2. Understand your blood pressure
Since COPD can cause pulmonary hypertension or high blood pressure in your arteries, it’s important to know your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about how lowering your blood pressure can improve heart health.
3. Manage your diet and weight
Eating healthy is important for all of your vital organs, but it’s especially important for those suffering from COPD and/or heart disease. Aim to eat a heart-healthy diet to manage your weight, control your cholesterol and increase your energy.
If you have COPD or heart disease, you can benefit from controlled exercise that provides both cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation. Work with your doctor to establish an exercise routine that is a good fit for your ability. Over time, light to moderate exercise will strengthen your heart and lungs, but always remember to exercise at a pace that is consistent with your physical ability!
5. Consider a portable oxygen concentrator
Portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) are used to alleviate the symptoms of COPD and return your blood oxygen level to a normal saturation. Based on the severity of your COPD and your oxygen needs, your doctor may prescribe an oxygen flow rate from a POC. Using oxygen even as little as a few times a month can greatly improve your stamina and help you get back to living the life you deserve.
Consult with your doctor about your oxygen needs, and then our respiratory specialists will help you choose a POC that’s the right fit for your lifestyle.