Coughing can be a sign of the common cold, a lingering respiratory infection or a symptom of heart disease. Understanding the reasons that heart problems and coughing are linked to one another can help you determine whether your persistent cough is something to be alarmed about. Many people, especially smokers, may not pay attention to a cough. It's important to let your doctor know about any and all symptoms of heart disease, including a cough.
Types of Coughing
One of the first things a doctor wants to know in order to determine whether your cough is related to heart disease, is whether or not it's chronic or acute. An acute cough is one that just started. An acute cough can be caused by sinus problems, a respiratory infection or several other conditions. A chronic cough, lasting eight or more weeks, can be triggered by heart disease and other conditions. Presence of phlegm, wheezing and digestive problems are also things your doctor will be asking about when you visit.
When the heart is having a hard time pumping blood, whether it's because of scar tissue, hardened arteries, buildup in the arteries or muscular condition affecting the way it pumps, excess fluid can build up in the lungs and coughing can occur. If you're susceptible to heart problems, and have no other reason for coughing, see a doctor immediately. Congestive heart failure is generally easy for doctors to diagnose and the sooner you know, the sooner you can be treated. Reversing heart problems is a lot easier than stopping a heart attack.
In addition to the persistent cough commonly associated with congestive heart failure, there are other signs and symptoms of heart problems that should not be ignored. Edema (swelling) is a symptom of congestive heart failure, as well as shortness of breath, especially while lying down. Tightness in the chest, "heavy" arms and coldness or chills in the extremities, first the fingers and toes, followed by the hands and feet, then the arms and legs, as your heart has a harder and harder time pumping blood that far.
Other than the progressive heart failure that is inevitable if you ignore a cough that's related to heart problems, coughing itself can have some undesirable consequences. Prolonged coughing can cause strained muscles and pain due to repeated spasms putting stress on connective tissues. Also, displaced organs, urine leakage, fatigue, loss of consciousness and headache are all common for people who cough too much.
A widely distributed email hoax called "cough CPR" has people believing that they can stop a heart attack by coughing at regular intervals. The theory is that a cough stimulates a contraction of the heart muscles, and that cough CPR will re-regulate in arrhythmic heart. Experts, however, say that this is untrue and have debunked the "cough CPR" theory publicly, advising people who are suffering from a heart attack to call 911 immediately and seek immediate medical attention. The American heart Association has issued a public statement about "Cough CPR" on its site. In fact, Dr. Cary Fishbein, a Dayton Heart Center cardiologist, states that "It's right up there with voodoo as far as I'm concerned."