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COPD vs. CHF: Similarities and Differences

What do COPD and
CHF have in common?


  1. COPD and CHF have similar symptoms and risk factors. However, they affect different organs and are treated with different medications.
  2. The most common cause of COPD is smoking. Although it isn’t the most common cause of CHF, quitting smoking is beneficial to both conditions.
  3. There’s no cure for both conditions, but maintaining a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise can help slow the progression of both.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive
heart failure (CHF) can leave you feeling short of breath. These two serious
conditions share many symptoms and common risk factors. However, the causes and
treatments of each differ significantly.

COPD is a term for several types of serious respiratory
conditions that block airflow to the lungs. The two main COPD conditions are
chronic bronchitis and emphysema. With bronchitis, the airways that extend from
your trachea into your lungs become irritated. Emphysema occurs when serious
damage is done to the tiny air sacs in your lungs where oxygen and carbon
dioxide are exchanged. These diseases leave your lungs unable to work at full
strength, making it difficult to breathe.

CHF occurs when your heart becomes too weak to pump blood
through your body. When blood isn’t pumped out of the heart effectively, fluid
levels build up or become congested. When blood backs up or pools in the heart,
the heart beats more rapidly and expands to handle the greater volume of blood.
This makes heart failure worse.


Shortness of breath and wheezing are symptoms of both COPD
and CHF. Breathing difficulties are usually experienced after physical activity
and tend to develop gradually. At first, you may notice feeling out of breath
after simple activities such as climbing a set of stairs. As COPD and CHF worsen,
shortness of breath or wheezing may occur with little physical effort.

A chronic cough is one of the main symptoms of COPD. The
cough can sometimes bring up mucus from your diseased airways. It can also be a
dry cough. People with CHF also tend to have a dry cough that produces sputum.
Sputum is mucus that may also contain blood, pus, or bacteria.

COPD can also produce tightness in the chest. CHF doesn’t
lead to chest tightness, but you may feel your heart beating irregularly or
rapidly in your chest.


While they share some common symptoms, COPD and CHF develop
from different causes. The single most common cause of COPD is smoking. A
history of smoking doesn’t guarantee you’ll get COPD, but it increases the
likelihood of developing respiratory problems. Smoking is also a risk factor
for heart disease and CHF.

Some cases of COPD may be attributed to breathing secondhand
smoke or inhaling chemicals in the workplace. A family history of COPD can also
increase your likelihood of developing the condition.

Heart failure can be caused by coronary artery disease (CAD).
This disease occurs when the blood vessels in the heart become blocked, which
can cause heart attacks. Other causes of heart failure include diseases of the
heart valves, high blood pressure, and diseases of the heart muscle.

Treatment and lifestyle

There’s no cure for either COPD or CHF, so treatment aims to
slow the progression of the diseases and manage symptoms.

Because smoking can contribute to COPD and CHF, quitting
smoking will improve your health, whatever your condition.

Regular physical activity is important to strengthen your
heart and lungs, but both COPD and CHF can limit what types of exercises you
can do. Talk with your doctor about activities that are safe, and what
precautions you should take before and during exercise.


People with COPD and people with CHF are given different
medications. A common COPD medication is a bronchodilator. This medication
relaxes the muscles around your airways, making breathing easier. Short-acting
bronchodilators can last up to six hours and are usually recommended for times
when you’re more active. Long-lasting bronchodilators can last up to 12 hours
and are used every day. The severity of your COPD will determine what type of
bronchodilator is best for you.

If you have severe COPD, you may also need inhaled
glucocorticosteroids. These are steroids that help minimize inflammation in
your airways.


CHF can involve the use of several medications. Vasodilators
help your heart by widening blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. This helps
reduce the burden on your heart. Other key medications include diuretics, which
reduce the amount of fluid and sodium in your body. They can also help lower
blood pressure. A drug called digoxin
strengthens heart contractions and can be an important part of CHF treatment as

Anticoagulant medications may also be used to treat CHF. These
medications can help reduce the risk of blood clots. For cases of severe CHF
and COPD, oxygen therapy is often used. This therapy delivers oxygen to the lungs
through a tube in the nose.


The main preventive measure to avoid COPD is to never smoke,
or to stop smoking. Many products and therapies can help people quit smoking.
Ask your doctor about these methods or look for programs in your community or
at your local hospital.

Not smoking can also help preserve heart health. Other steps
to help lower your risk of CHF include:

  • managing your blood pressure and cholesterol,
    either through medications or lifestyle changes
  • exercising most days of the week
  • eating a diet that’s low in saturated fats,
    added sugars, and sodium
  • eating a diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables,
    and whole grains

Having regular checkups and following your doctor’s advice
may also help prevent COPD, CHF, and other serious health problems.


COPD and CHF are serious conditions that affect your
breathing and can affect your activity in life. Although both have similar
symptoms and risk factors, COPD affects your lungs and CHF affects your heart. Different
medications are used to treat each condition. However, eating healthy, getting
plenty of exercise, and quitting smoking are good treatments for both.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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