Chronic bronchitis can lead to lung infections, heart disease

Pamela Egan Practical Practitioner


By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE



Chronic bronchitis can lead to lung infections, heart disease



Dear Pam,

My husband suffers from chronic bronchitis. He has smoked his whole life. I heard that chronic bronchitis can lead to heart disease. Is this true?

Bronchitis is a form of lung disease that interferes with the lungs’ ability to move enough air in and out. It is an inflammation or obstruction of the bronchi or breathing tubes that lead to the lungs. The inflammation is followed by incessant coughing due to the irritation present, a build-up of mucus, fever, back and chest pain, sore throat and difficulty breathing. Acute bronchitis typically follows upper respiratory tract infections such as influenza and often leads to pneumonia.

Chronic bronchitis results from frequent irritation of the lungs, but it is not an infection. In chronic bronchitis the airways have become permanently swollen, which narrows them and may cause coughing and heavy mucus. This swelling in the airways is usually a response to irritants, such as tobacco smoke. Allergies may be the cause of chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis can lead to repeated lung infections. In addition, as the space in the lung available for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide diminishes, the heart has to work harder to keep an adequate volume of blood. This can lead to heart disease.

You may ask how do the lungs work? The lungs are a complex structure that looks like an upside-down tree.

The main trunk (trachea) brings air in through the mouth and nose.

Like a tree, as the airways branch off, they multiply and become narrower, until they finally end in a cluster of air sacs.

At these air sacs, oxygen exchanges with carbon dioxide. The oxygen is then delivered to all parts of the body, and the carbon dioxide is exhaled.

Tips on managing your bronchitis:

  • Take you antibiotic exactly as your health care professional prescribes, even if you are feeling better.

    Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.

    Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.

    Avoid fumes, polluted air, strong odors and dusty working conditions.

    Wash your hands thoroughly and often.

    Add moisture to the air with a vaporizer or humidifier.

    Avoid exposure to airborne irritants, such as hair spray or other aerosol products.

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