Pulmonary hypertension, or PHT, is a disorder in which the arteries leading from the heart to the lungs become narrowed, creating high blood pressure. There is no cure for pulmonary hypertension, but there are treatments that can reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Though this disorder is a serious one, symptoms may not occur or be obvious until the condition is advanced. As the illness progresses, symptoms worsen and can be fatal. As the pressure builds, the right side of the heart works harder, making it expand in size and causing it to weaken.
Eventually, the right ventricle will be unable to keep up and cannot pump enough blood to the lungs, potentially leading to heart failure. Though anyone can suffer pulmonary hypertension, it is more common in young adults, and women are twice as likely to have PHT as men.
Often, symptoms of pulmonary hypertension are absent until the condition has progressed, sometimes for months or even years. Initial symptoms include shortness of breath and fatigue, so they are often dismissed by those who believe they are simply out of shape. The following symptoms may appear and worsen as the illness advances:
- Dizziness and fainting spells
- Swelling in the ankles, legs, and/or abdomen
- Chest pressure or pain
- Bluish tint to lips and skin
- Racing pulse or irregular heartbeat
If you are experiencing symptoms of pulmonary hypertension, call 911 for immediate treatment. Your doctor will take a complete medical history. He or she will likely do a careful physical examination, which may include listening to your heart for any abnormal sounds, checking your nails for a bluish tint, examining your jugular vein for signs of enlargement, or checking for fluid retention in your legs, ankles, and abdomen. Other tests your doctor may use include blood tests, chest X-rays, an echocardiogram, chest CT scan, pulmonary angiogram, or right heart catheterization.
Though there are some who develop primary pulmonary hypertension that is not accompanied by any other heart or lung conditions, secondary pulmonary hypertension is more common and is triggered by preexisting conditions such as congenital heart defects. If the underlying disease or defect can be fixed, your PHT symptoms may lessen over time. Treatment for PHT varies widely among individuals, but can include medication, diet and lifestyle changes, surgery, and regular doctor visits. For those who do not respond to medicinal therapy, lung transplantation – or heart and lung transplantation in rare cases – may be the only treatment option. There are several less drastic ways to manage pulmonary hypertension in many individuals. If you develop PHT, consider the following measures and precautions:
Smoking: Quitting smoking is recommended as it complicates many heart conditions.
High altitudes: Avoid situations in which your oxygen level is decreased, including high altitudes. Your doctor may recommend supplemental oxygen during air travel.
Exercise: Exercise as much as you are comfortable doing. Avoid physical activities that cause symptoms, like dizziness or chest pain. Work with your doctor to create an exercise plan that works for you.
Pregnancy and childbirth: It is recommended that women with PHT practice safe and effective contraception to avoid pregnancy as it can seriously endanger your life. Pregnancy creates drastic changes that affect your heart for up to six months after delivery.
As you may know, Saint Thomas Heart Group joined Henry County Medical Center last December, offering complete cardiac services from the treatment of chest pain, to minimally invasive heart surgery and the latest in structural heart procedures. To make an appointment, call 731-644-8226.
You are never too old or too young to begin taking good care of your heart! Celebrate Heart Health Month by attending HCMC’s Heart Strong Heart Health event on Thursday, March 11, from 1:00-4:00 PM at the HCMC Diagnostic Center Atrium. Space is limited, and you must register in advance to attend by calling the HCMC Find Line at 731-644-3463. We will provide pre-registered attendees with a carotid artery ultrasound as well as a blood pressure checks, full lipid panel and blood glucose test by appointment only. Please remember to pre-register as space is limited.
What Should My Family Eat to Stay Healthy?
The basics of healthy eating and good nutrition are the same for each member of your family: choose healthy foods most of the time and limit the amount of unhealthy foods you eat. But healthy eating can be difficult to fit into your family’s everyday busy life, especially when everyone is immediately “hangry” when they walk in the door. Read some tips on how to make sure your family’s diet is nutritious to keep them healthy now, and throughout their lives.
Why Healthy Eating Matters
When your family follows a pattern of healthy eating, it can:
- Lower their risk of diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease
- Give their bodies and brains the energy they need to be physically active and to concentrate
- Provide the essential vitamins and minerals they need to stay alive and healthy
- Helps them reach and maintain a healthy weight
Over time, your food and drink choices can make a significant difference on your family’s overall health. Here are five simple tips on how to make small changes to your family’s diet to help them be healthier now and in the future:
- Eat and drink less saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Switch to low-fat or fat-free dairy
- Vary the types of protein you eat
- Eat whole grains
Food Label Fast Facts
Reading labels can help you make healthier choices. Here are some tips on making sense out of food labels:
- Select foods that list ingredients that you recognize
- The closer the ingredient is to the top of the list, the more there is in the product
- Sugar is sometimes labeled as fructose, sucrose and corn syrup, so to reduce the amount of added sugar, avoid foods that list sugars at the top of the food label
- To make sure your family is getting enough fiber, look for foods that list whole grains as the first or second ingredient after water
- Fat-free and low-fat food labels don’t mean the food is calorie-fee
How to Sneak Healthy Food into Your Family’s Diet
- Add grated vegetables like zucchini, spinach and carrots to casseroles and sauces
- Use pureed fruit for sweet toppings rather than sugary syrups
- Make fresh dips using pureed vegetables or fruits, flax seed, wheat germ and other healthy additions
- Use whole-grain breads instead of white
- Serve whole-grain crackers instead of chips
- Use whole-wheat flour instead of white
Healthy cooking at home can help to reduce obesity and control portion sizes. For more information on healthy eating and nutrition, along with recipes, visit Henry County Medical Center’s website at www.choosehcmc.org. For video instructions for many recipes, visit our YouTube Channel: youtube.com/henrycomedcenter.