Asthma and Heart Health
Last updated: October 2022
When you think of asthma, you automatically think of the lungs and how they work to keep our bodies oxygenated and us breathing easy. There is one more piece to the puzzle that is often overlooked when treating asthma.
How do the heart and lungs work together?
It’s no secret that the heart and lungs rely on each other. They are like peanut butter and jelly, and they cannot function without the other. The lungs and heart work simultaneously to make sure the body has the oxygenated blood it needs to function.
You may have heard the term “cardiac asthma.” Cardiac asthma is not a true type of asthma, although it can cause similar symptoms. Wheezing and coughing that occurs during cardiac asthma is a result of heart failure. The wheezing that is heard in a person with heart failure is referred to as having a “cardiac wheeze,” which is caused by a backup of fluid in the left side of the heart.
This, in turn, causes fluid to build up in the lungs (called pulmonary edema). Bronchodilators, such as albuterol won’t always alleviate symptoms with cardiac asthma. Other medications, including diuretics, will help keep the symptoms of heart failure at bay.
Overuse of rescue medication
I have heard many people in the asthma community say that it is not possible to take too much albuterol. It absolutely *is* likely to overdose on albuterol. Taking more than prescribed can lead to serious, potentially life-threatening issues. Some of the dangerous side effects of taking too much albuterol include rapid shallow breathing, prolonged tachycardia (fast heart rate), dangerous electrolyte imbalance, high or low blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.
Needing to use your albuterol/rescue inhaler more than two times per week is a sign of uncontrolled asthma. If this is something, you are experiencing, be sure to give your doctor a call because you might need your asthma medication dosages changed or additional medications added to help get your asthma under better control.
Importance of exercise for the heart and lungs
Exercise is essential for heart health. For many asthmatics, the thought of exercise is downright scary and makes our lungs twitchy just thinking about it! Don’t let the word ‘exercise’ make you curl into a ball and cover your ears. Exercise isn’t all about running marathons and lifting hundreds of pounds of weights at the gym.
Exercising can mean just going for a walk or using a resistance band while sitting in a chair when your asthma or the weather might be preventing you from going outside. Increasing stamina will come over time. Take as many breaks as you need and stay hydrated! Before starting any exercise plan, be sure to have a conversation with your doctor about it and come up with a plan.
Heart health is often overlooked when it comes to asthma. I’m a firm believer that anyone who has asthma should have their heart checked out as well. Poorly controlled asthma can lead to strain on the heart, and having it monitored will help keep each over happy and healthy.
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