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What is Cardiopulmonary Disease?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Cardiopulmonary disease is disease which involves both the heart and lungs. It may be known as heart-lung disease or heart and lung disease, and it can take a number of forms. Left untreated, cardiopulmonary disease can be deadly. Treatment of such diseases may be overseen by a medical specialist such as a cardiologist, and can involve a team of physicians to ensure that a patient gets the most appropriate care. It is advisable to see a specialist with experience in this area when receiving treatment to receive the most up to date and aggressive treatments available.

The heart and lungs are closely linked, and problems which involve one organ can also spill over into the other. For example, someone with coronary artery disease has trouble pumping blood efficiently to the lungs for oxygenation, and someone with asthma may not be able to fully oxygenate blood because of his or her impaired breathing. The close connections between the heart and the lungs can also result in cascading reactions which complicate medical issues and generate medical emergencies quickly when a patient is having health problems.

People with cardiopulmonary disease can experience symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, bluing of the extremities, chest pain, high blood pressure, and dyspnea, in which they stop breathing altogether. Commonly people feel wheezy, and may experience chest pain after exercising or while struggling to breathe. Over time, the symptoms can worsen.

Cardiopulmonary disease can involve inflammation which shuts down the airways and narrows the coronary arteries, along with infections and ongoing disease processes. One example of cardiopulmonary disease is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which makes it hard to breathe and results in subsequent heart problems for the patient over time. The heart is strained by the extra work it has to engage in to get blood through the lungs for oxygenation, and may eventually give out.

If cardiopulmonary disease is suspected, a doctor will order lung function tests to learn more about the status of the lungs. She or he may also order studies of the heart, including medical imaging studies to visualize the heart, and an electrocardiograph to record the electrical signals from the heart. These tests are used to assess current levels of functioning and to gather information which could shed light upon the patient's condition. Treatment options can include medications, diet and exercise recommendations, surgery, and recommendations for lifestyle changes which will keep the patient more comfortable.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By johng — On May 18, 2013

I smoked Newports like an idiot off and on, about one pack every two days from from the time I was 23 until I was 29. Well, at 29 I decided to quit because I was smoking so much. I was breathing heavy and having to go to the hospital every two weeks for bronchitis. I quit smoking and I said, “This is it. I'm never being this stupid again!” So now, a year has gone by and I cough all the time and I went to the doctor and he told me it takes nine months for the smoker's cough to go away and I asked him if I had a problem since I'd been coughing for a year since I quit smoking. I asked if I have COPD and he said, "You're not old enough yet for COPD," so I left the doctor and I started having weird symptoms that I thought might be similar to cardiopulmonary or coronary artery disease.

My symptoms include: heavy breathing-very laborious; little red bumps on my chest that go away after two or three days; chest pains sometimes; feeling of having a heavy or congested chest; dizziness; feeling like I have bad circulation; numbness that goes away in my right big toe; aching joints and feeling like I can't bend or be flexible.

The biggest symptom: I feel like I don't have strength or a strong chest feeling. My grip is weak and the more I try to clench a fist, the harder it is. I even start breathing heavier when I am clenching a fist. Is that poor blood flow in my arteries? Am I not getting enough oxygen? God, I'm going nuts.

So I'm wondering: am I just out of shape and need to lose weight? Is that it, or are these symptoms from smoking? I'm trying to do workouts and eat right from now on, hoping all this goes away. Does anyone know about these weird red bumps? Well, in any case, I hope there is a cure for this disease, whether I have it or not.

By turquoise — On Apr 24, 2011

I read that there are some studies being done on cell therapy for cardiopulmonary disease. The article says that they can inject cells into the lungs and the lung can repair itself. They can even do it for the heart.

I think this is really exciting. If studies continue and they have positive results, cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary disease may no longer be an issue in the future!

By ysmina — On Apr 23, 2011

@burcidi-- My dad is a cardiopulmonary patient and his symptoms are much more severe than your description. He has breathing problems during any kind of activity, even walking or doing things around the house. Even when he is sitting down sometimes he is not comfortable. He was also losing weight before we went to the doctor.

They ran some tests on him and saw that his lung capacity had decreased and he was diagnosed that way.

Your symptoms don't seem as serious, but you should still get checked out. They might recommend weight loss or might recommend a higher dose of your medication or something.

By burcidi — On Apr 21, 2011

I have high blood pressure and I have some of these symptoms when I'm climbing stairs. I run out of breath and have to stop and rest sometimes before I can go on. I don't wheeze or cough when I'm walking, just when I climb stairs.

Does this mean I have cardiopulmonary disease?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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