What is pulmonary hypertension?

Hypertension — the term doctors use for high blood pressure — normally affects arteries throughout the body. But a relatively uncommon disease affects only the pulmonary arteries, the vessels that transport blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs. The vessels narrow and thicken, tighten, or develop blood clots. These changes can severely limit blood flow, which boosts pressure in the pulmonary arteries.

Pulmonary hypertension can result from a wide range of problems and is classified into five groups depending on the underlying cause. One group, referred to as pulmonary arterial hypertension, generally affects younger people. Among its many different subtypes are cases with no known cause, inherited cases, and those associated with connective tissue diseases such as scleroderma or lupus.

Most cases of pulmonary hypertension fall into a group associated with left-sided heart disease. These cases result from problems with the aortic or mitral valve or the heart’s lower left chamber. Two other groups include cases caused by lung diseases or chronic blood clots. The last group includes cases linked to health conditions such as blood or metabolic disorders.

The main symptoms of pulmonary hypertension — shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, leg swelling, and heart palpitations — mimic those of more common problems. As a result, the symptoms are often attributed to asthma, lung diseases from smoking, or even anxiety.

Although there is generally no cure for pulmonary hypertension, treatment can ease the symptoms and improve your quality of life. The treatment depends on the underlying cause, the severity of your symptoms, the likelihood of progression, and how well you tolerate different medications. Treatments may include oxygen, drugs used to treat regular high blood pressure, anti-clotting drugs, and drugs that help the heart pump harder. Finding the right treatment often takes a while and may require adjustments over time.

As with all types of cardiovascular disease, following a healthy diet is important. Pay close attention to how much salt you eat, as aiming for no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day might be useful. Exercise can also help but be sure to check with your doctor first to choose activities that are safe and not too strenuous, based on your level of fitness and symptoms.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

 “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” – Proverbs 12:25

 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” – Luke 12:25

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11

 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22

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