For those who suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), cold weather conditions can worsen symptoms. When temperatures drop, it can result in fatigue, and even breezy days can bring out a shortness of breath. It only makes sense that many affected by this disease have experienced aggravated symptoms during cooler weather.
At Family Medicine & Geriatric Center, we treat individuals with pulmonary diseases like COPD, and over the years we have learned why cold weather may affect it.
How the Heart and Lungs Work Together
Many may not be fully aware of how interconnected — aside from the obvious — the heart and lungs are in making sure your body gets the oxygen it needs. The heart pumps oxygen-poor blood to the lungs, where it receives the oxygen the body needs to properly function. From there, the oxygen-rich blood is then delivered from the lungs back to the heart, which then pumps out oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
When the highs of a Texas summer cool down into the cold lows, blood vessels can narrow down, potentially impeding blood flow. As the heart puts more effort into pumping, blood pressure begins to rise. That’s why we tend to see high blood pressure in visitors during the winter months more often than we would in the summer.
The Connection Between COPD and Weather Conditions
Cold weather conditions can stimulate the production of sputum, i.e. phlegm, causing more restriction in the lungs. Unfortunately, as cold weather conditions persist, so do the negative respiratory health effects and your susceptibility, especially if you live with COPD.
Cold weather can also trigger a high respiratory rate, i.e. a faster breathing rate per minute. Even mild temperatures can impact respiratory health and lead to unhealthy amounts of stress affecting the respiratory system. This could ultimately cause an increased rate of cold-related deaths among our older adults. Humidity and wind also play a significant part in triggering and worsening symptoms for people living with COPD, like:
- Shortness of breath
As the humidity in the air rises, the air gets more dense, making it harder for airflow to the lungs effectively. Even wind resistance can make the simplest of tasks like walking, going up stairs, or doing chores an arduous task for COPD sufferers.