Concerned man talking to his doctor

My Cardiologist

After a brief examination the other day, my pulmonologist, Lisa, was looking over her notes and asked me, “When was the last time you saw your cardiologist?”

“My cardiologist? I don’t have a cardiologist,” I told her.
“What do you mean?” she asked. “When was the last time you saw a cardiologist?”
I told her, “Never.”
“You’ve never been to a cardiologist or had a stress test?”
“Nope.”
“Why not?”
“Let’s see. There’s you - my pulmonologist. I have my GP. Nobody ever said I needed one before. How many doctors do I need?”

Now...please note, I’ve been with the same pulmonology group since 2011 and they’re terrific. I love them all. I tried someone else briefly (you should too if you haven’t) but found them lacking and went back.

I’d also had very good health prior to the onset of my COPD in 2011 and did the usual annual check-ups and flu shots, etc. that are kind of the minimal requirement doctors have on us.

Nothing was wrong. Everything looked good.

So, when Lisa asked, I dutifully I made an appointment and read up on the relationship between COPD and heart problems.

Heart conditions and COPD

COPD may cause there to be low oxygen in your blood. As you may know, and with a grain of common sense (which I seem to be missing) you’d realize that this can put extra strain on your heart and cause heart failure.

You’d think this would warrant an annual trip to the cardiologist. But, somehow, it never occurred to any of us.

When I hear or read the term “congestive heart failure,” or CHF, it makes me think my heart has stopped and I’m about to die.

But what it actually means is that your heart is not pumping your blood in a manner that is helpful to you.

A healthy heart pumps blood efficiently and effectively so that your body gets all the blood and oxygen it needs.

Heart failure prevents the heart from supplying your body with everything it needs in terms of blood and oxygen.

COPD can also cause the type of heart failure which can cause there to be too much fluid in your lungs making breathing even harder when you have COPD.

AS with COPD, when you’re active your blood flow must increase, and your heart has pump harder and faster. If your heart can’t keep up, blood “backs up” into your lungs.

The fluid causes shortness of breath.

And when your blood is not properly oxygenated, due to COPD, extra stress is placed on the heart.1

Unfortunately, like COPD, there’s no cure for CHF, so treatment aims to slow the progression of the diseases and manage symptoms. Sound familiar?

Exercise for COPD and CHF

And, hopefully, because I think I’m preaching to the choir by now, we know that regular physical activity (pulmonary rehabilitation !!!) is important to strengthen your heart and lungs.

But both COPD and CHF can limit what types of exercises you can do.

You should always talk with your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation, other physical activities that are safe, and what precautions you should take before and during exercise.

I hope you’ll excuse me now.

I gotta go see my cardiologist!

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