A common lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and it is strongly associated with smoking. One in five Americans over the age of 45 has COPD, but half of them may not know about of it. COPD often involves destruction of lung tissue, called emphysema, as well as narrowed airways, persistent cough, and mucus production, known as chronic obstructive bronchitis, making breathing difficult.
According to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), COPD diminishes the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively even when the disease has no or mild symptoms. New results suggest that changes in the heart occur much earlier than previously believed, in mild cases and even before symptoms appear.
“This study shows that COPD, even in its mildest form, is associated with diminished heart function,” said NHLBI Acting Director Susan B. Shurin, M.D. “We now have evidence that the presence of even mild COPD may have important health implications beyond the lungs.”
“COPD is one of the big killers in the United States, yet it is unknown to many,” said James P. Kiley, Ph.D., director of the NHLBI Division of Lung Diseases. “Unfortunately, many people with COPD don’t recognize common symptoms such as having shortness of breath while doing activities they used to be able to do. It’s important that we continue to increase awareness of the signs of COPD and available treatments.”