Is Your Lung Connected to Heart Failure

Airway obstruction was a good predictor of future heart failure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Poor lung function may be more than just a symptom of respiratory disease. A new study has shown a link between lung function and the increased risk of heart failure.

Lung function, and airway obstruction, was a good predictor of future heart failure. According to researchers, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), was a long-term risk factor for heart failure.

Future studies can focus on how much of a role poor lung function plays in heart failure.

"Ask your doctor about ways to measure lung function."

The study was led by Dr. Sunil Agarwal from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and involved 16,000 individuals, aged 45 – 64, who were monitored for approximately 15 years and were a part of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Even when other risk factors, like prior heart disease, age or smoking were taken into consideration, poor lung function increased the risk of heart failure.

This research helps clarify the role of lung function and respiratory diseases like COPD. While COPD has been shown to be a disease that occurs at the same time as heart failure, it has only been due to recent studies that COPD has been determined to be a long-term risk factor for heart failure.

Data from the ARIC study was collected between 1987 and 1989, and included questions about medical and family history, medication usage, lung volume and cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes. High blood pressure or smoking. Annual telephone surveys, three additional examinations and hospital records were collected until 2005 for over 13,000 participants were collected after the initial ARIC study.

Researchers used the Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV1) test to determine lung function and airway obstruction. FEV1 measure how much air can be exhaled in one second. The lower FEV1 scores, once all risk factors were taken into consideration, strongly predicted heart failure.

According to Dr. Agarwal, poor lung function is a long-term risk for heart failure. Poor FEV1 scores may be a stronger predictor of heart failure than diabetes or high blood pressure, believes Dr. Agarwal.

Researchers note that COPD and poor lung function do not cause heart failure, and because of the complex relationship between the lungs and the heart, which disease causes the other will be hard to determine.

Future studies can examine if air pollution and smoking, two risk factors for COPD, intervention programs can be beneficial to reducing the risk of heart failure. By reducing air pollution exposure or quitting smoking will increase FEV1 score, improve lung function and reduce the risk of COPD. Doctors should be aware of poor lung function, and COPD, to help better manage and reduce the risk of heart failure. 

No funding information was provided. No author conflicts were reported.

This study was published in the February edition of European Journal of Heart Failure.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 29, 2012
Last Updated:
February 29, 2012