Congestive Heart Failure And COPD - How Are They Linked?

July 19, 2023

COPD and congestive heart failure are related. Many patients with COPD may experience congestive heart failure related to the left or right side of the heart. Low oxygen levels from COPD can dramatically affect the heart and puts COPD patients at greater risk.  

copd and congestive heart failurecopd and congestive heart failure

What Is Congestive Heart Failure? 

Congestive heart failure, or CHF, occurs when the heart struggles or fails to pump blood to the rest of the body. With CHF, your heart cannot supply the usual amount of blood your body needs. Blood could then back up and fluid accumulates in the lungs. Congestive heart failure eventually leaves the arteries to the heart narrowed. Patients can experience high blood pressure and shortness of breath. Although CHF is not curable, it does require a medical diagnosis and can be treated to improve the condition. 

Signs And Symptoms Of Congestive Heart Failure 

Indications of congestive heart failure include: 

  • Chronic shortness of breath, even when inactive
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Swelling in the feet, legs and ankles
  • A rapid or irregular heartbeat  
  • A persistent cough, often with blood-spotted sputum
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Water retention and sudden weight gain
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Loss of appetite and nausea
  • Chest pain 

Signs And Symptoms Of COPD 

Because congestive heart failure is a risk for COPD patients, it is important that they be able to distinguish the symptoms between heart failure and COPD, as they can be similar.  
COPD symptoms include: 

  • Shortness of breath, but mostly when active
  • Persistent wheezing
  • A persistent and productive cough, but without blood spots
  • Frequent respiratory infections like cold and flu 

Shortness of Breath from COPD

Shortness of breath from COPD is related to the condition of the patient’s lungs. Patients tend to become short of breath during physical activity. Because of the respiratory illness, the lungs have become swollen and inflamed. Any physical activity, even moderate activity, can overtax the lungs and lead to shortness of breath. That's because COPD can damage a person's airways or the air sacs in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged, resulting in difficulty when taking a breath.

Shortness of Breath from Heart Failure

The shortness of breath experienced from heart failure is much different. No physical activity is necessary to trigger the event. The weakness of the heart can lead to reduced blood flow and even blood backing up. Fluid then begins to back up in the lungs causing congestion and shortness of breath.  

Comorbidities of COPD and Heart Failure 

COPD and Left-Sided Heart Failure 

COPD can cause a condition known as pulmonary hypertension, a condition due to low blood oxygen levels that raises blood pressure and that can damage the right ventricle of the heart. When the right ventricle ceases to function properly, blood backs up into the heart and into the veins. 

COPD and Right-Sided Heart Failure 

COPD can cause a condition known as pulmonary hypertension, a condition due to low blood oxygen levels that raises blood pressure and that can damage the right ventricle of the heart. When the right ventricle ceases to function properly, blood backs up into the heart and into the veins. 

If You Have Both COPD And Heart Failure, What Should You Do? 

If you have both health conditions, you must focus on treating both effectively. Follow your doctor’s recommendations including recommendations for physical activity. Monitor your conditions at home to ensure they do not worsen. COPD can intensify heart failure symptoms, so managing your COPD properly is one of the best approaches to maintaining your health.  

COPD and Heart Failure Treatment 


Exacerbations occur when a person experiences worsening symptoms or a gradual worsening of the disease. Try to avoid flare-ups of your COPD as much as possible and treat them as quickly as possible as they can trigger issues with heart failure. Maintain your oxygen therapy and prescribed medications.  

Modified Treatment for Combined COPD and CHF 

Some medications used to treat COPD could actually make a person's congestive heart failure worse. Start with therapies that help with both conditions. Many of these therapies can be complex but if followed may help reduce symptoms and allow you to function normally to some degree away from a medical setting.  

Lifestyle Strategies 

Making the proper lifestyle changes to improve symptoms or prevent the progression of both COPD and CHF can be very beneficial to your overall health and quality of life. Follow strict lifestyle changes including smoking cessation and weight loss to help manage both conditions more effectively. More positive lifestyle changes include:

  • regular exercise
  • physical therapy
  • cardiac rehabilitation
  • stress management 

Take Medicines (Vasodilators, Beta blockers, Diuretics, Digoxin, Anticoagulants) 

A range of medications are available for treating both health conditions at the same time. Some medicines may work better than others and you may have to work closely with your doctor and a medical team to determine the best regimen of treatment.  

COPD And Heart Failure Life Expectancy

COPD life expectancy depends on a number of factors such as age, the severity of the disease, and other health conditions. Most COPD patients can live for 10 or 20 years past their first diagnosis.  Unfortunately, heart failure life expectancy is much lower. Most of those who are diagnosed with the disease die within a 5-year period. For those with end-stage heart failure, life may last no longer than a year.  


While both health conditions can be debilitating it is important for patients not to give up hope. Treatments for both diseases can prolong life. Understanding how much the heart and lungs are dependent can help many patients take better care of both their respiratory and cardiovascular systems.  Managing both conditions can help extend and enhance the quality of life.  

If you or someone you know has either conditions and needs help finding the proper oxygen therapy products they need, call The Oxygen Concentrator Supplies Shop today at 888-941-1688 today! Our knowledgeable staff would be happy to help you choose the best products to suit your needs. We offer the highest-quality oxygen concentrators, nebulizers, oxygen therapy supplies, and more. 

Chris Vasta

Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide reviews on new releases.