Respiratory and pulmonary diseases

Diseases of the airways or lungs not only affect the athletic performance immensely, but can also have direct effects on the health of the heart.

Our lungs absorb oxygen via the inhaled air and pass it on to the blood, while at the same time excreting the amount of carbon dioxide produced during the combustion processes. The heart is connected directly to the lungs via the pulmonary circulation. Therefore, diseases of the airways or lungs not only affect the athletic performance immensely, but can also have direct effects on the heart due to the strong interconnectedness.

(Also read the first two parts of the article:

Atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure

Hypertension and cardiac arrhythmias)

Diseases of the airways

The upper airways are the nasopharynx, whereas the lower larynx, trachea, and bronchial system. Their most common and usually harmless disease is the common cold. Since with him, however, can often be associated with other diseases such as the middle ear infection, sinusitis or bronchitis, here is already foreseeable from sporting activity. Otherwise, the germs get easier and more in the lungs and heart and can lead to a heart muscle inflammation.

Chronic bronchitis

Bad air, especially when smoking, causes chronic bronchitis. The mucous membranes are permanently swollen and it is increasingly produced mucus, which makes breathing difficult. The further the disease progresses, the more the respiratory distress becomes, and in addition there is a weakness of the right half of the heart and cynosis, a bluish discoloration of the lips, fingers and skin.

As a therapy, the prevention of inhalation of other toxins should be the top priority. Medications (eg cortisone spray) can help in the short term. Special breathing gymnastics combined with endurance swimming training provide the best results on the athletic side.


Also common is the disease bronchial asthma. As a result of inflammation or hypersensitivity of the bronchi there is a constriction of the respiratory tract and concomitant to respiratory distress. A distinction is made between allergic asthma (eg due to pollen), non-allergic asthma (due to viruses, bacteria), stress asthma and other mixed forms.

In addition to shortness of breath, the person affected often has a coughing stimulus and an increased heart rate. As always, the triggering factors should be avoided. Hypersensitization is also possible in allergic asthma. As a rule, cortisone-based drugs or beta-2-sympathomimetics are used. The latter simulate an adrenaline release and have an anabolic effect. They are therefore also misused as a doping agent.

The same measures are suitable for sports therapy as for chronic bronchitis. Swimming in warm water is ideal, as increased respiration in dry and cold air causes the bronchial tubes to cool and dry out, which in turn causes seizures. The high humidity in the swimming pool minimizes this risk.

Diseases of the lung


Pulmonary emphysema is an irreparable enlargement of the air spaces in which the alveoli first unite, then become limp and hardened. This reduces the area of ​​the lung and thus its ability to exchange gases as described above. Pulmonary inflammation may be due to age, as a result of respiratory disease or scarring that occurs when inhaled long fumed silica.

This disease can only be cured with early diagnosis. Under certain conditions, lung transplantation is possible and necessary. Smoking should be avoided at all costs. Medication and breathing exercises follow.

lung infection

Known is the pneumonia. As the name implies, part of the lungs, mainly the lungs, become inflamed. Most of the time, only a small part of the lung is affected. The cause is an infection with bacteria or viruses. Of course sport is taboo during this time and the treatment belongs in expert hands. Performance may be impaired for up to 4 weeks after healing. Take care and start slowly with your training.


Both diseases belong to the collection group COPD (English: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), popularly referred to as smoker's lung. Diseases of this category belong to the 4th most frequent cause of death worldwide. It can not be emphasized enough that inhaling pollutants is the main cause. The lungs need 10, the heart even 15 years to completely regenerate after high cigarette consumption.

Well-suited for patients with mild to moderate COPD are consistent, medium intensity endurance sports such as walking, walking, light jogging, cycling, dancing and gymnastics. Even more promising, according to the latest scientific findings, is a combination of strength and endurance training. Also yoga, autogenic training and Pilates lead to an improvement of the health situation.


As an athlete or trainer, it is important to know the most common diseases of the heart and lungs. Above all, the impact of various drugs on performance and physical fitness must be included in the training plan. Knowing and recognizing symptoms can save lives - even in the gym, gym or on the sports field.

This series of articles should give you a small overview, but it is imperative that you - especially if you have regular contact with stakeholders or risk groups - educate yourself. In any case, try to contact the attending physician and make arrangements.

Marcel Kremer


1. Classen, M .: Internal Medicine, 5th ed., Munich 2004.

2. Hollmann, W .: sports medicine, 4th edition, Stuttgart 2000.

3. Weineck, J .: sports biology, 8th ed., Balingen 2002.

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