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Living With Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) has no cure. However, you can work with your doctor to manage your symptoms and slow the progress of the disease.

Ongoing Care

Follow your treatment plan as your doctor advises. Call your doctor if your PH symptoms worsen or change. The earlier symptoms are addressed, the easier it is to treat them.

Some symptoms, such as chest pain, may require emergency treatment. Ask your doctor when you should call him or her or seek emergency care.

Also, talk with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medicines. Some medicines can make your PH worse or interfere with the medicines you're taking for PH. Ask your doctor whether you should get a pneumonia vaccine and a yearly flu shot.

You may have a complex schedule for taking medicines. Call your doctor or nurse if you're having problems with this schedule. Knowing the names of your medicines and how they work is helpful. Keep a list of your medicines with you. Don't stop or change medicines unless you talk with your doctor first.

Pay careful attention to your weight. You may want to keep a daily record of your weight. You should weigh yourself at the same time each day. If you notice a rapid weight gain (2 or more pounds in 1 day or 5 or more pounds in 1 week), call your doctor. This may be a sign that your PH is worsening.

Pregnancy is risky for women who have PH. Consider using birth control if there is a chance you may become pregnant. Ask your doctor which birth control methods are safe for you.

Lifestyle Changes

Making lifestyle changes can help you manage your symptoms. These changes will depend on the type of PH you have. Talk with your doctor about which lifestyle changes can help you.

Quit Smoking

If you smoke, quit. Smoking makes PH symptoms worse. Ask your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

For more information about how to quit smoking, go to the Diseases and Conditions Index Smoking and Your Heart article and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI's) "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart."

Although these resources focus on heart health, they both include general information about how to quit smoking.

Follow a Healthy Diet

Following a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are part of a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet also is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar.

Talk with your doctor about whether you need to limit the amount of salt and fluids in your diet. Ask him or her whether you also need to regulate foods that contain vitamin K. These foods can affect how well blood-thinning medicines work. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables and some oils, such as canola and soybean oil.

For more information about following a healthy diet, go to the NHLBI's Aim for a Healthy Weight Web site, "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart," and "Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH."

All of these resources include general advice about healthy eating. The DASH eating plan focuses on reduced-sodium foods, which may be helpful if your doctor advises you to limit the salt in your diet.

Be Physically Active

Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Try to do physical activity, such as walking, regularly. This will keep your muscles strong and help you stay active. Ask your doctor how much activity is safe for you. Your doctor may tell you to limit or avoid certain activities, such as:

  • Those that cause straining, such as lifting heavy objects or weights.
  • Sitting in a hot tub or sauna or taking long baths. These activities can lower your blood pressure too much.
  • Flying in an airplane or traveling to high-altitude areas. Your doctor may ask you to use extra oxygen during air travel.

Avoid activities that cause breathing problems, dizziness, or chest pain. If you have any of these symptoms, seek care right away.

Emotional Issues and Support

Living with PH may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. You may worry about your medical condition, treatment, finances, and other issues.

Talk about how you feel with your health care team. Talking to a professional counselor also can help. If you're very depressed, your doctor may recommend medicines or other treatments that can improve your quality of life.

Joining a patient support group may help you adjust to living with PH. You can see how other people who have the same symptoms have coped with them. Talk with your doctor about local support groups or check with an area medical center.

Support from family and friends also can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.

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Updated: August 2, 2011