Did you know that heart disease claimed 659,041 lives in the US in 2019? Cancer, including those of the lungs, resulted in 599,601 fatalities. On top of those were the 156,979 lives lost due to chronic lower respiratory diseases.
All that makes cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases among the top causes of death in the US.
The good news is that accurate disease diagnosis can help reduce such deadly events. However, it’s crucial to get diagnosed as soon as possible; otherwise, the disease can get worse.
To that end, we created this guide on heart and lung diseases and what makes them dangerously similar. Read on so that you can learn how to tell the diseases of these systems apart.
What Is Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease is a disease of the heart, the blood vessels, or both. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common of all cardiovascular diseases. As many as 18.2 million people in the US have CAD, a narrowing or a blockage of heart arteries.
Congestive heart failure, which CAD can contribute to, is also common. Other prevalent heart diseases include irregular heart rhythm, congenital heart disease, and endocarditis.
The risks of developing cardiovascular diseases are higher in people who smoke tobacco. The same goes for those with high blood pressure and cholesterol or who live with an unhealthy diet. Lack of physical activity and obesity can also raise a person’s odds of getting heart disease.
What About Pulmonary Disease?
Pulmonary disease is a disease that affects the respiratory system, especially the lungs. You may have also heard of it referred to as respiratory disease or lung disorder.
Asthma, which affects about 25 million people, is the most common type of pulmonary disease in the US. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, and lung cancer are also common.
Such respiratory issues can result from infections caused by bacteria or viruses. Smoking, inhaling secondhand smoke, and breathing polluted air can also cause pulmonary woes. Exposure to asbestos and radon can also lead to chronic lung diseases or even cancer.
When Heart Disease May Seem like Lung Disease
Some cardiovascular diseases, such as CAD, can have symptoms that affect respiration. After all, the lungs and the heart are within the chest cavity. As such, it may be easy to confuse heart disease symptoms with those of lung disease or vice versa.
For example, CAD can cause discomfort, pain, pressure, or tightness in the chest. It may also make it difficult to breathe.
Some studies also suggest that COVID-19 may be a heart problem and not a pulmonary virus. However, the symptoms of the infection include those that occur with CAD and dry cough.
Endocarditis, which can result from an infection, can also lead to shortness of breath. It’s a heart disease that occurs due to an inflammation of the endocardium. The endocardium, in turn, is the inner lining of the chambers and valves of the heart.
Diagnostic Methods for Heart and Lung Diseases
Blood tests, x-rays, and echocardiograms allow doctors to diagnose heart and lung diseases. They use these diagnostic methods to get a deeper look into both the heart and the lungs.
However, since heart disease can affect the lungs, doctors often need to do more in-depth tests.
For example, they may conduct an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) on the patient. This lets them measure the heart’s electrical activity. In doing so, they can figure out if it’s the heart or the lungs to blame for chest tightness.
Stress tests can also help doctors determine and differentiate heart from lung disease. These exams look at the heart’s performance under physical stress, such as on a treadmill.
Importance of Accurate Heart and Lung Disease Diagnosis
Without proper diagnosis, doctors can’t develop appropriate treatment plans. They may even prescribe incorrect medications, which can make their patients’ diseases worse. Worst, the patient may not recover, and instead, die prematurely.
Administration of Proper Treatment
Treating heart disease, such as CAD, often involve medicines to lower blood pressure. Some medications also help widen the arteries or thin the blood to make it easier to flow through valves.
In contrast, controlling asthma, which has CAD-like symptoms, requires inhalers. They relieve or prevent symptoms such as shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. However, they can’t do what heart disease medications can.
With that said, using a medicine for the wrong disease may not do anything to help at all. Worse, it may even put the patient’s life at risk.
Catch and Treat Deadly Conditions Before They Worsen
Experts estimate that close to a quarter of a million new lung cancer cases will occur in the US this 2021. They also project that over half of that number will result in cancer deaths.
Chest pain that worsens with deep breathing or laughing is a common lung cancer sign. Another is shortness of breath. As mentioned above, both are typical signs of heart diseases.
Unfortunately, cancer can spread and worsen much faster than blockages affecting the heart. For instance, the size of lung cancers, on average, can double in just four to five months.
This is why it’s imperative to seek your doctor’s help as soon as you experience pain in the chest. This way, your physician can test you to reach an accurate diagnosis. From there, you can undergo proper treatment as soon as possible.
Prevent More Severe Complications With Prompt Diagnosis
There you have it, your guide to heart and lung disease diagnosis. As you’ve learned, they share some similarities, but their treatment still differs.
The most important thing is to see your doctor as soon as possible if you think you have either. This way, you can undergo proper treatment early to manage your condition better.
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