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Last Updated on August 24, 2023

Introduction: COPD and Heart Failure

COPD and heart failure are distinct medical conditions with similar symptoms, such as breathlessness. A distinguishing characteristic between the two conditions is based on different system’s involvement i.e. the cardiovascular and pulmonary, respectively.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. According to statistical reports, chronic respiratory conditions, including COPD, is the third leading cause of death (1).  The interrelationship between COPD and heart failure is not clearly defined but undeniably exists.

Continue reading the blog to understand every aspect of the intricate relationship between COPD and heart failure.

” One of the most frequently searched questions regarding COPD is ‘ Is COPD Contagious? ‘
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Facing Trouble Breathing?

An array of troublesome symptoms are usually associated with COPD and heart failure. Dyspnea (shortness of breath) is often a symptom of heart and lung problems. It can happen in other circumstances, such as physical exertion, a cold, allergies, extreme anxiety, and stress.

There is no difference between dyspnea and shortness of breath, except that the former is a medical term and the latter is a layman’s term. What is more concerning and requires diagnosis is the duration and time of occurrence of dyspnea.

In acute dyspnea, shortness of breath initiates abruptly and doesn’t last very long (hours to days). Conditions such as flu-like illness, anxiety, exercise, and anaphylaxis can cause acute breathlessness.

Chronic dyspnea, on the other hand, lasts longer (several weeks or longer) or keeps coming back. Asthma, COPD, and heart failure are medical conditions with a shared symptom, chronic dyspnea.

The intricacies of COPD and heart failure adversely affect the quality of life and in severe cases might lead to life-threatening medical emergencies.

Airflow Obstruction: Asthma, COPD, or Something Else? “

Symptoms of COPD and Heart Failure

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart failure share some common symptoms, which might be challenging to differentiate between the two conditions and navigate life unbothered. Here are some of the shared symptoms besides dyspnea:

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

It’s important to note that while these symptoms are shared, their underlying causes differ between COPD and heart failure.

Shared Risk Factors

The relationship between COPD and heart failure is complex and multifaceted. The distinct medical conditions affect different systems of the body (lungs for COPD and heart for heart failure) but may influence each other due to shared risk factors. It is not uncommon to develop heart failure alongside COPD or vice versa. Commonly reported risk factors are:

  • Smoking: About 90% of COPD cases are caused by smoking, increasing the vulnerability of developing heart conditions 2-4 times. (2)
  • Aging: Accelerated aging in men and women above 65 undergoes a decrease in the cell turnover rate, which increases the susceptibility to heart and lung conditions.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Physical inactivity negatively influences organ health, increasing the risk of COPD exacerbation, hospitalizations, and severe complications.

The Impact of COPD on Heart

According to the American Heart Association, severe lung diseases, COPD, lung hyperinflation, inflammation, and hypoxia increase the possibility of heart failure caused by increased strain on the heart. (3) Reduced lung function in COPD affects oxygen levels in the blood, causing the heart to work harder to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. This increased workload can contribute to heart failure or exacerbate existing heart failure.

In other cases, such as pulmonary hypertension, a condition in which major blood vessels in the lungs narrow and constrict, exerts additional stress on the right side of the heart, potentially leading to right-sided heart failure.

The Impact of Heart Failure on COPD

Fluid accumulation in the lungs is a significant, life-threatening hallmark of heart failure. In heart failure, the heart may struggle to pump blood efficiently, causing fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema). This fluid accumulation might exacerbate COPD symptoms, increasing respiratory distress in severe cases.

Treatment Considerations for COPD and Heart Failure

Understanding the relationship between COPD and heart failure is crucial for providing effective treatment and management strategies. Every case is unique. While some people may have severe COPD with mild heart failure, others may have severe heart failure with mild COPD. The goal of treatment in individuals with COPD focuses on dilating the airways to alleviate breathing issues. Additionally, heart failure treatments aim to curb the workload on the heart. The medications commonly used to relieve breathing symptoms in COPD and heart failure patients are:

  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone or methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol) (4)
  • 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

Lifestyle modifications such as quitting smoking can significantly improve symptoms and avoid the worsening of existing symptoms. In either case, taking proactive measures, including speaking to health practitioners, is essential to abstain from detrimental health conditions.

About Revive’s COPD Clinical Trials

Revive Research Institute, a leading clinical research organization, is conducting COPD Clinical Trials. Men and women who suffer from the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and fulfill the eligibility criteria are permissible to participate in our COPD Research Study.

The eligibility criteria to enroll in the COPD Clinical Trials study are as follows:

  • Male or female between 40 to 85 years
  • History of COPD for at least 12 months

*Additional criteria may apply


To summarize, for a definitive diagnosis of patients suspected of having COPD or heart failure, healthcare professionals should gather comprehensive medical histories, conduct physical examinations, and order appropriate tests. Collaborative care from pulmonologists and cardiologists is crucial for managing both conditions effectively.

Moreover, participating in clinical trials may be beneficial for many individuals who are no longer able to respond to standard heart and lung medications.

Dr. Unzila Nadeem

Dr. Unzila Nadeem currently works as a Patient Recruitment Associate. With her combined experience as a dentist and her firm grip on research processes, she makes a valuable addition to our Patient Recruitment team.

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Revive Research Institute, Inc.

28270 Franklin Road
Southfield, MI

T: 248-564-1485