The Harmony of the Heart and Lungs
The heart and the lungs work hand in hand to keep the body in ship shape.
How does that work? When we inhale air, we absorb oxygen which is then taken to the bloodstream, and ‘attaches to’ or oxygenates red blood cells. The pulmonary vein takes these oxygenated blood cells to left half of the heart, which collects and sends the oxygenated blood to every part of the body.
How heart disease affects the lungs
Because the heart and the lungs exist in such cohesion, a problem with one organ could affect the other. For example:
- Heart failure: can cause shortness of breath
- Tachycardia: can also cause shortness of breath
- Pulmonary edema & Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: fluid in the lungs caused by heart problems
Even mild lung diseases can affect the heart’s ability to pump blood, as is the case with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Furthermore, external factors can adversely affect both the heart and lungs. Sahara Dust, which is responsible for high levels of air pollution affects persons in the United Kingdom as well as the Caribbean, is a prime example.
Generally, high air pollution levels can aggravate cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses; it adds stress to the heart and lungs with must work harder to supply the body with oxygen. In fact, long-term exposure to pollution can result in decreased lung function, irregular heartbeat and non-fatal heart attacks.
Caring for your lungs
Since your heart and lungs are so intricately connected, lung care is heart care. How do you take care of your lungs (and by extension heart)?
- Exercise: Increases circulation and improves respiration ability
- Diet: Low levels of some nutrients have been linked to lung diseases
- Water: Hydration plays a role in lung health
Avoid Smoking: smoke, especially from cigarettes is bad for both your heart and lungs