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What Is the Connection Between Congestive Heart Failure and Pneumonia?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 April 2014
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Congestive heart failure and pneumonia are related in a variety of ways. For example, they share many of the same symptoms and can often be confused because they both look similar on an X-ray. In addition, each condition can cause complications during the treatment of the other. For instance, pneumonia is generally treatable, but those with heart conditions are much more likely to suffer from severe complications. Additionally, those with underlying heart problems can sometimes suffer from a heart attack during pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a condition of the lungs which is characterized by heavy mucus production, coughing, chest pain and heaviness, and trouble breathing. It can be caused by irritation to the lungs, bacterial or viral infections, or sometimes fungi and parasitic infections. Congestive heart failure is a condition in which one or both sides of the heart muscle are not able to effectively pump blood throughout the body. Sometimes this can be caused by a severe and chronic lung condition like emphysema, which has many of the same symptoms of pneumonia.

Both congestive heart failure and pneumonia can cause shortness of breath, heaviness in the chest, chest pain, fatigue, and weakness. Even coughing can be present with both conditions because sometimes heart problems can lead to inflammation and congestion in the lungs due to lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. Doctors must check patients thoroughly to determine the cause of symptoms, and X-rays are not always conclusive.

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Heart issues can also cause severe complications in those who have pneumonia. If trouble breathing and lack of oxygen intake is an issue, patients may need to be placed on a ventilator or oxygen machine since this issue can be compounded by an ineffectively pumping heart. Many times the pneumonia is treated first so that patients are healthy enough to undergo the often invasive treatments needed for congestive heart failure.

Patients with congestive heart failure and pneumonia are generally kept in the hospital so that proper care can be given. There are various types of pneumonia, so exact treatments will depend on the source. Heart failure can be treated with a variety of things, including medication or surgery. The overall prognosis for both conditions generally depends on the patient’s age and whether any additional health issues are present.

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Discuss this Article

SarahGen
Post 3

@burcinc-- I think the connection between congestive heart disease and pneumonia often go the other way. Congestive heart failure often leads to pneumonia because it leads to buildup of fluids in the lung. The build up can result in infection which can then cause pneumonia if it's not treated quickly.

My grandfather experienced this. He had congestive heart disease and then, he also developed pneumonia. He was in the hospital for a long time.

candyquilt
Post 2

@burcinc-- It's true that pneumonia is dangerous for the elderly, but it doesn't have to be due to congestive heart failure. Pneumonia can cause death due to heart failure or respiratory failure. Sometimes it's difficult to know what the exact cause of death is. Usually, it is said that death is due to complications from pneumonia.

Having said that, if someone with high blood pressure or other heart issues has symptoms of pneumonia, he or she needs to be extra careful. Pneumonia can be dangerous for everyone. But the more chronic health conditions someone has, the more dangerous pneumonia generally becomes. Young children and the elderly are especially at risk of pneumonia complications.

burcinc
Post 1

It's because of the connection between congestive heart failure and pneumonia that pneumonia is so dangerous for the elderly, right?

I often hear about and read about elderly people dying from pneumonia.

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