Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an inflammatory lung condition that affects 3 million adult Canadians aged 40 years or older. Most patients have mild to moderate disease and as such have only modest symptoms of cough and breathlessness. However, many will go on to experience ischemic heart disease and stroke and die of cardiovascular complications rather than from their lung disease. Indeed, nearly 50% of all hospitalizations and 25% of all deaths in patients with mild to moderate COPD are cardiovascular system related. Experimental and epidemiologic data from the past 20 years provide compelling evidence that chronic lung inflammation (related to COPD or exposure to irritants such as tobacco smoke or air pollution) contributes to atherosclerotic plaque progression and that acute inflammatory stimulus such as acute respiratory tract infections or acute exacerbations of COPD induce plaque rupture, leading to cardiovascular events. In this paper, we provide an overview of the epidemiologic and experimental data linking COPD with cardiovascular disease and highlight the clinical implications of this linkage for clinicians who evaluate and manage patients with COPD, cardiovascular diseases, or both.
Copyright © 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.