Study Links Reduced Lung Function With An Increased Risk Of Heart Failure
It is not a new thing that smokers have a higher risk of developing heart failure compared with people who don’t smoke but according to a new study published in the European Journal of Heart Failure, it seems that reduced lung function and obstructive airway disease are independently associated with heart failure.
The based-population cohort study, supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), was conducted on a sample of 16,000 adults, aged between 45 and 64, followed over a period of nearly 15 years. Study results showed that the long term risk of developing heart failure increases proportionally with reduced lung function, measured as FEV1 (forced expiratory volume). These results were not influenced by age, preexisting cardiac disease or other cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking.
Heart failure is the main reason for hospitalization in people over 65 years. Heart failure a pathological condition in which the heart can not pump enough blood to supply the body functions. There are many causes that can lead to heart failure: hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and others. Common symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, leg edema, ascites, hepatomegaly. Even if people survive many years after the inital diagnosis, heart failure is associated with an overall annual mortality rate of 10%.
Smoking increases the risk of developing heart failure by placing an added strain on the heart, causing it to work harder to pump blood and potentially damaging the heart muscle over time. In other words reduced lung function is a risk factor for heart failure, independent of smoking and this means that physicians should adopt another strategy for treating their heart failure patients.
Dr Sunil Agarwal from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA, the study’s first author, says that a low FEV1 is more important as a risk factor than diabetes and hypertension. This observation is important because smoking and pollution adversely affects lung function. It is therefore important to determine whether improved lung function is associated with a lower risk of heart failure.
The study confirms other similar findings which indicate that a low FEV1 is associated with heart failure. The finding requires further research to prove that improving FEV1 reduces the risk of heart failure. Dr Gerardo Heiss, the study’s senior investigator, noted that even if COPD is common among cardiac patients, we cannot say that screening for COPD reduces the risk of heart failure. However, Dr Gerardo Heiss points out that clinicians should be aware that patients with COPD are at a greater risk of developing heart failure.