A Columbia study showed that the heart’s ability to pump effectively is diminished among people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, even in people with no or mild symptoms. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the research is the first to show a strong link between heart function and mild COPD.
"Heart failure caused by lung disease is well documented in patients with severe COPD but was not thought to occur in patients with mild COPD,” says Graham Barr, M.D., Dr PH., assistant professor of medicine and of epidemiology and PI of the MESA Lung Study. “We found that there appears to be a linear relationship between lung function and heart function, and even a small hit to the lungs negatively affects heart function as well. These results raise the intriguing possibility that treating lung disease may, in the future, improve heart function."
Using MRI and CT scans, researchers found mild abnormalities in both heart and lung function in many participants. The link between lung and heart function was found to be strongest in current smokers, in whom vascular damage is particularly common and especially in those with emphysema. However, the association also appeared in participants with mild emphysema who had never smoked cigarettes.