new study underlines the importance of testing heart function in patients with chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD), which happens to be one of the most
common lung diseases. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a progressive disease that
makes it difficult to breathe. This disease can get worse with time and does
not have a permanent cure.
Researchers now suggest that modifying heart dysfunction may be of
benefit in the treatment of COPD patients.
Important parameters of the heart such as the heart rate are controlled
by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) of the body.
Ourábody's nervousásystemáhas two major components that
are called the centralánervousásystem and the peripheralánervousásystem. The central nervous
consists of the braináand theáspinal cord and the peripheralánervousásystemáin turn consists of theásomaticánervousásystem and the autonomicánervousásystem. Theásomaticánervousásystemáis responsible for allávoluntary
muscleácontractions and sensory stimuli (touch, smell, hearing
etc,) while the autonomicánervousásystem controls all the involuntary functions of the body such as
breathing,digestion, control of blood pressure, sugar and many more functions.
The ANS has two sections - one that accelaerates the ANS functions
(sympathetic) and the other that brakes some of the body functions (parasympathetic).á
According to the new findings, autonomic nervous system (ANS) dysfunction
plays an important role in decreasing the quality of life. Dysfunction of the
ANS is known to explain a wide range of physical and physiological illnesses.
A clear cut understanding of
the factors contributing to the poor quality of life in patients with lung
disease such as COPD can definitely improve their health status. Unfortunately
very little research has been done till date.
The latest study published in
the journal 'Respirology' described
60 patients with COPD. The patients included in the study were clinically
stable ones and aged 40 to 75 years.
Their quality of life was
measured through a questionnaire, and their heart rates were measured through
Holter electrocardiogram monitoring devices. Lung function was assessed using
spirometry, whole-body plethysmography, and diffusion capacity measurements.áThe Holter electrocardiogram device
recorded heart rate variability (HRV), an assessment tool for the functionality
of the autonomic nervous system.
It was found that the resting parasympathetic tone of the ANS
was independently associated with the quality of life in COPD patients.
Patients with COPD had raised resting heart rate and decreased heart rate
variability when compared with the
normal values of healthy participants at similar ages. The increased resting
heart rate makes the heart work harder and the decreased heart rate
variability means it does not respond adquately to exercises or exertion.á
Thus it clear that testing the
cardiac autonomic function is important for improving the quality of life in
patients with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
that target the autonomic nervous system
regulation of the heart can help in overall improvement of patients with
chronic lung pathologies like obstructive airway disease.
áSource: Respirology. 2011;16:939-946