Overview of Pulmonary Hypertension

What is it?

Pulmonary hypertension is a condition where your lungs have a blood pressure which is too high.

The effect of this on your heart is that the right side (which pumps blood into the lungs) has to work much harder than usual.

When your heart must work much harder, it becomes abnormal in shape and thickness, resulting in conditions such as heart failure.

Causes

Pulmonary hypertension occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the lungs become smaller and narrower, increasing their overall pressure.

The increase in pressure then results in the right side of the heart working harder, eventually with the right side of the heart unable to cope with the demand in pressure.

What Is Pulmonary Hypertension

Statistics

Pulmonary Hypertension is considered a rare condition; however, it may result in other serious conditions (such as heart failure) without timely diagnosis and management.

Statistics for Australia are difficult to obtain, however world-wide studies have suggested that the condition is increasing over time.

A recent Canadian study suggest that most cohorts of Pulmonary Hypertension sufferers were mostly females who were older in age and had comorbidities such as heart disease.

Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms for Pulmonary Hypertension can be similar to many of the symptoms for heart disease, therefore it is essential that you visit your GP if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Blue lips and skin
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Swollen lower legs
  • Abdominal bloating
Pulmonary Hypertension Symptoms

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors that are linked with the incidence of pulmonary hypertension:

  • Female sex
  • Congenital heart diseases
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • Connective tissue diseases such as scleroderma
  • Infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C
  • Sleep Apnoea
  • Underlying lung diseases and liver disease
  • medications such as chemotherapy, appetite suppressants and methamphetamines
Pulmonary Hypertension Risk Factors

Treatment for Pulmonary Hypertension

There are a number of different treatment options available for you if you have pulmonary hypertension.

We suggest you discuss these options with your doctor to develop an individual plan which works well for you:

Lifestyle changes:

this includes eating a heart-friendly diet, exercising with an approved plan from your doctor as well as attending a rehabilitation program to help you learn how to manage your condition.

Oxygen therapy treatment:

if your oxygen levels are too low your doctor may recommend a period of oxygen therapy to help you with your breathing.

Medications:

your doctor may suggest you go on some medications for your condition such as vasodilators (to reduce the pressure in your lungs), digoxin/similar drugs (to increase the effectiveness of your heart’s pumping ability) as well as blood thinning medications (such as aspirin) to reduce your risk of blood clots in the lungs.

Surgery:

there are some surgery options available for people to reduce pressure in the lungs or remove blood clots if they are the cause of the pulmonary hypertension.

Prevention and Support

Follow the links below to find out more about how you can help prevent and support loved ones who have experienced Pulmonary Hypertension

Prevention

Prevention

Currently, the suggestions for preventing Pulmonary Hypertension are focused around heart health. These include maintaining a healthy weight range, regularly exercise, eating a healthy and balanced diet as well as not smoking.
Supporters

Supporters

A support group is a good way to meet people who have Pulmonary Hypertension. Speaking to people who have a similar condition to you can help you understand the condition as well as help with the healing process both mentally and physically
Carers

Carers

If you are struggling to care for a loved one who has Pulmonary Hypertension reach out discuss how you feel today. Thinking about the person you are caring for may mean that you need to find another carer. Your well being and health as a carer is important too

FAQs

What you need to know

Pulmonary hypertension affects both women and men equally across all age ranges and ethnicities, however being a female increases your risk of developing pulmonary hypertension.

A typical patient with pulmonary hypertension according to current studies is older in age and tends to be female; these women will also have other associated comorbidities.

Currently there is not much specific information about the treatment and therapies for Australian women with Pulmonary Hypertension, however it is optimistic that this information will be available in the future.

If you want to become pregnant and you have pulmonary hypertension you should speak with your doctor first as your pregnancy can become complicated.

Long-term, your pulmonary hypertension should be able to be managed by you and medical professionals.

Treatment would focus on relieving your symptoms and managing your condition so that it does not increase in severity.

Having regular appointments and check-ups will help you manage and maintain your pulmonary hypertension.

The Lung Foundation Australia has created a fantastic resource about living with pulmonary hypertension

If you are already diagnosed with any Heart Disease or Pulmonary Hypertension, we recommend speaking with your doctor and treating team to learn more about daily management. Research suggests that attending a Secondary Prevention Program can decrease the chance of being admitted to hospital, reduce your complications as well increase survival rates.

Your doctor may have recommended that you take some new medications if you have Pulmonary Hypertension. This could be an overwhelming time for you, especially as learn all about your new medications as well as any considerations for taking them. Apart from having a discussion with your doctor and pharmacist, NPS Medicinewise has some great information on medication management, medication disposal as well as risk factors. They also have some great information about medications for your heart, which can be found here.

It’s not too late to start looking after your heart health, even after a diagnosis of RHD.

It’s not too late to start looking after your heart health. Here are some great and easy everyday strategies you can do to look after your heart health:

Don’t smoke, as quitting smoking can reduce your risk by 50% in one year. Quitline would be a great way to start your quitting smoking journey.

Stay active, 30 minutes per day of exercise, such as walking, can reduce your risk by 30% and delivers many positive health benefits. More information about exercise as well as a sample walking session can be found here.

Get some sleep, aim for 7-8 hours sleep and aim to try and unplug from your technology (e.g. iPad) one hour before bedtime. The Sleep Health Foundation has many great women’s focused sleep pages for all stages of your life such as your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, new mothers and menopause.

Eat healthy: ensure you watch portion sizes, eat healthy and nourishing foods such as: high fibre foods (including oats and legumes), two pieces of fruit and seven serves of vegetables, reduced salt, three serves of fish per week, reducing saturated fats (such as chicken with skin on, baked goods, fried foods) whilst choosing more lean proteins such as tofu and trimmed meats. The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute has created some handy factsheets to help you choose correct portions, supermarket shopping, healthy snacks and eating out.

Relax: try and take some time out for yourself, keep connected with friends and family, perhaps try activities such as meditation to help manage your stress levels. Beyond Blue has a great page full of practical stress relieving tips, and it could be worth to try some meditations from apps such as Smiling Mind, Headspace and Calm.

Yes, there are support groups for Pulmonary Hypertension!

The Lung Foundation Australia has a number of support groups available https://lungfoundation.com.au/patient-support/?event_category=43, as well as exercise support groups https://lungfoundation.com.au/exercise-classes/?event_category=126 .

Pulmonary Hypertension FAQs