COPD, Even When Mild, Limits Heart Functions
A common lung condition, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) diminishes the heart's ability to pump effectively even when the disease has no or mild symptoms, according to research published in the Jan. 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study is the first time researchers have shown strong links between heart function and mild COPD. The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health.
Akinso: Even with a mild case, COPD still diminishes the heart's ability to pump effectively.
Kiley: We've known for many years that there’s been some relationship this serious lung disease and cardiovascular disease.
Akinso: Dr. James Kiley is the Director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Division of Lung Diseases.
Kiley: COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it's also known as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It's a very serious lung disease that where parts of the lung becomes partially blocked making it particularly difficult to breathe.
Akinso: Results from an NHLBI study suggest that changes in the heart occur much earlier than previously believed in mild cases, and before COPD symptoms appear. Using breathing tests and imaging studies of the chest, researchers measured heart and lung structure and function in 2,816 healthy adults. Dr. Kiley explains the findings of the study.
Kiley: The primary finding from this study is that the degree of emphysema was related to reductions in heart function which led to reduce stroke volume cardiac output and things that have a significant impact on the ability of the heart to pump blood. What we’re now learning from this study, the main outcome from this, is that we really need to look more closely at cardiovascular function in patients even with very mild emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Akinso: Dr. Kiley says COPD is one of the big killers in the U.S., yet it's unknown to many.
Kiley: COPD is a very serious lung disease. It’s on the rise. It's the fourth leading cause death. So it's a very prevalent condition. We know that about 12 million Americans have COPD, and we guess or estimate that about another 12 million may have it but they don’t even know they have it. So this calls into question how well do people understand this disease.
Akinso: Dr. Kiley says these results raise the intriguing possibility that treating lung disease may, in the future, improve heart function. He adds that further research is needed to prove whether treating mild COPD will help the heart work better. For more information on COPD, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland.