The Cardiopulmonary Connection

Cardiopulmonary diseases account for three of the top four causes of death, and more than one-third of all deaths, in the U.S. each year. Much attention is given to the leading cause among men and women: heart disease. (Cancer is No. 2.) Can you name No. 3?

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is the third leading cause of death. In fact, COPD is a leading cause of death and illness worldwide. The disease includes emphysema and chronic asthmatic bronchitis.


Better Together

Cardio refers to the heart, and pulmonary refers to the lungs. Your heart and lungs work together and are dependent on each other to keep you alive and well.

When you breathe in, you inhale oxygen. Blood from the heart circulates throughout your body and picks up the oxygen—the fuel that makes your body cells work—from your lungs. Then when you breathe out, you exhale carbon dioxide, the byproduct of the work done by your body’s cells. So when your heart or lungs are diseased, your body has to work harder.


Exercise Does Wonders

What can you do to manage your COPD? Surprisingly, you can help yourself by exercising. Physical activity that is rhythmic and repetitive and challenges the cardiac and pulmonary systems helps increase blood flow to the muscles for an extended time. That promotes cardiopulmonary fitness. Aerobic exercise:

• Produces energy and uses oxygen as you move

• Increases your breathing, heart rate and endurance

• Increases your fitness level and capacity for exercise

• Helps prevent cardiovascular disease, control diabetes and obesity, and reduce blood pressure

Endurance exercises include walking, swimming, bicycling, cycling on a stationary cycle, tennis, dancing, cleaning, gardening and yard work.

Be sure to start with about five minutes of endurance exercise. Work your way up to 10 minutes, but your goal is 30 minutes three to five times per week.



Ultimately, you are responsible for how you prevent or manage cardiopulmonary disease. You choose to exercise, or not. And you choose the food you eat and the way in which you take care of your health.


Don’t Know Where to Begin?

Visit for a schedule of classes and for information on the membership plan that’s right for you.


Article by: By Biju Mathews, M.D., Interventional Cardiologist, and Terri Brewis, PMC Respiratory Manager