The heart and lungs work together to keep a person alive. The heart pumps blood, which has been oxygenated by the lungs, to the rest of the body. The heart and lungs also need an oxygen-rich blood supply to function properly. Breathing problems are often associated with heart disease because of this close relationship between the heart and the lungs.Several heart problems are related to breathing, according to MedlinePlus.
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If the lungs stop functioning, it is called respiratory arrest, and the heart eventually stops too. Conversely, if the heart stops, it is called cardiac arrest, and the lungs also cease functioning. There are several causes of respiratory arrest, such as apnea, suffocation or lung disease.
Congestive heart failure, or CHF, can affect breathing and shortness of breath is a major symptom of CHF. CHF is a condition where the heart cannot pump blood to the other organs, according to the American Heart Association. The patient begins to breathe heavily as the lungs try to supply the body with more oxygen. In addition to carrying oxygen to the cells of the body, blood also carries away toxins and excess fluid. CHF causes fluid to build up in different places in the body, including the lungs. This worsens breathing problems, causing the blood to be even less oxygenated.
Cor pulmonale is a heart condition caused by high blood pressure in the artery that moves blood from the heart to the lungs. High blood pressure in this artery is called pulmonary hypertension, and prolonged pulmonary hypertension puts strain on the heart. When the right ventricle of the heart is no longer able to handle pumping against this unusually high pressure, it is called cor pulmonale. Almost any chronic lung disease can lead to cor pulmonale, including COPD, apnea and cystic fibrosis.
The heart speeds up for a few beats while a person inhales and then slows down as the person exhales. This is known as sinus rhythm and is normal. An abnormal heart rhythm is known as arrhythmia which can cause shortness of breath. About 4 million people in the United States have arrhythmias, according to Texas Heart Institute.
A heart attack occurs when blood vessels to the heart are blocked, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching the muscles of the heart. The cells in the heart muscle are injured by the lack of oxygen and may begin to die. Shortness of breath is a symptom of heart attack.
A person may be born with a medical condition. This is known as a congenital disease. Certain congenital diseases may affect the heart and interfere with breathing. Congenital heart disease is the most common congenital disease and is responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other congenital disease.