What is COPD and congestive heart failure?


HOUSTON – As former first lady Barbara Bush rests at her Houston home amid news of her failing health, more news is coming out about the diseases she's fighting.

Bush has suffered from congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, for some time now.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, congestive heart failure means the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. It does not mean that the heart has stopped but that the muscle is too weak to meet the body’s demand.

The only cure for heart failure is a heart transplant.

COPD has a serious impact on one's ability to breathe. Bush has been in and out of the hospital with problems from the disease for the past two years.

COPD is a progressive disease that can often be associated with smoking. Women and people over 65 and women have an equally high risk of being diagnosed, according to the CDC. It reduces the amount of oxygen the lungs can absorb and the amount of carbon dioxide a person can exhale.

There are ways to treat the symptoms, but there is no cure for COPD.

The Bush family spokesman said Bush has opted out of additional medical treatment and is instead focusing on “comfort care” at home. That means doctors will no longer try to aggressively treat the illness. Instead, they will focus on easing the symptoms to make Bush more comfortable.

Some patients decide to move to comfort care, wanting to focus on the quality of their last days, rather than the quantity.