According to a new investigation, individuals who suffer with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or those with reduced lung function have a serious risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Presented at the European Respiratory Society’s Annual Congress in Amsterdam, the discoveries indicate that because individuals with COPD and reduced lung function appear to be at a significantly higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, they should be routinely screened for it.

For medical experts, the problem of co-morbidities, when a person is suffering from more than one condition at the same time, is an increasing concern, especially as the commonness of co-morbid conditions are due to increase as people live longer. Often individuals are treated by a specialist for one particular symptom, however, it will become crucial for all physicians to recognize other symptoms as the frequency of co-morbidities increases.

Despite it being common for individuals to have both COPD and cardiovascular disease, it usually goes unrecognized by physicians due to overlapping clinical manifestations. In individuals with heart disease, COPD diagnosis can remain unsuspected, however, having both of these conditions can lead to a considerably worse outlook for the patient.

Prior studies revealed very little epidemiological evidence connecting the two conditions. This investigation is the first to discover that nasal symptoms and heart disease are common in individuals with COPD and this may link the two conditions.

They gathered data on nasal symptoms and heart disease from 993 individuals with COPD and 993 without the condition. Patients were then divided into two groups, those with normal lung function and those with restricted lung function. 50.1% of individuals with COPD had cardiovascular conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and hypertension, in comparison to individuals with normal function (41%).

Results revealed that nasal symptoms were common among individuals who had both COPD and heart disease (53%) compared to those with normal lung function and heart disease (35.8%).

Furthermore, 62.2% of individuals with both restricted lung function and cardiovascular disease had nasal symptoms, indicating that the symptoms could be used as an indicator for identifying increased risk of cardiovascular disease and COPD among those yet to be diagnosed with either condition.

Dr Anne Lindberg, from the Sunderby Hospital in Sweden, explained:

“Our findings are the first to shed light on the links between both nasal symptoms and cardiovascular condition, in relation to people with COPD and restrictive lung function. This has important implications for clinicians who need to understand the potential overlaps of these conditions when they are treating people with COPD. In addition to raising awareness of these co-morbidities, it will also be important to investigate these links further and look at the effect that co-morbid conditions have on exacerbations and disease progression. ”

Professor Marc Decramer, President of the European Respiratory Society, said:

“Clinicians often forget that people with one chronic condition usually have another illness at the same time. Many of the illnesses that are common alongside COPD, such as cardiovascular disease, may also share similar traits and it is vital that we build on research such as this study to identify new therapeutic targets in the future.

The European Respiratory Roadmap, which was launched last month, outlines the need for great coordination between medical specialists. As the population is aging, the presence of co-morbidities will increase. The roadmap suggests that clinicians need to improve their recognition of other conditions to improve patient care and look at how to manage COPD in conjunction with other health conditions.”

Written by Grace Rattue