COPD and heart failure cause the same main symptom: shortness of breath with exertion. People with COPD, heart failure, or both have a limited ability to exercise, climb stairs, or walk long distances. Difficulty breathing occurs for different reasons in COPD and heart failure.
People with COPD have difficulty exhaling all the air in their lungs because of lung damage -- often from years of smoking. When it takes longer to exhale completely, it’s hard to increase the rate of breathing. Most people with COPD breathe comfortably while resting. During exertion, though, breaths start coming in before air from the last breath has been exhaled, and shortness of breath results.
In people with heart failure, the heart does not pump blood efficiently. As in COPD, most people with heart failure can breathe easily when at rest. With activity, blood flow must increase, and the heart must pump harder and faster. If the heart can’t keep up, blood “backs up” into the lungs. This fluid congestion causes shortness of breath.
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Archived: March 20, 2014
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