November is Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month, dedicated to raising awareness of this condition in the hopes of producing earlier diagnosis, better treatment and even a cure.
According to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada, approximately 5,000 Canadians have been diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, but as many as 10,000 may be affected by the condition.
Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) is a general term that describes high blood pressure in the blood vessels (pulmonary arteries) that carry blood from the right side of your heart to the lungs. When these arteries become hardened, blocked, narrowed or swollen, it makes it harder for the blood to flow through the lungs. This causes the heart to work extra hard to pump the blood through the vessels, eventually leading to the heart becoming weaker and potentially failing due to the extra workload.
The World Health Organization has categorized PH into 5 groups based on various causes and how they are treated. Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a type of PH that is specifically due to narrowing of the pulmonary arteries (blood vessels) that carry blood to the lungs. There is no know cause, but treatments are available. The other groups of PH are caused by either heart disease, lung disease or chronic blockages in the pulmonary artery (CTEPH) as well as being triggered by other health conditions.
According to the Mayo Clinic, PH is typically diagnosed in people aged 30-60.
They suggest additional risk factors could also include:
- A family history of the condition.
- Being overweight.
- Blood-clotting disorders or a family history of blood clots in the lungs.
- Exposure to asbestos.
- A heart problem that you’re born with, called a congenital heart defect.
- Living at a high altitude.
- Use of certain drugs, including some weight-loss medicines and illegal drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine.
Symptoms of PH could include unexplained shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen ankles, dizziness with activity and/or fainting. PH symptoms can also be like other lung and cardiac diseases, making it difficult to diagnose accurately.
There is usually no cure for pulmonary hypertension, but treatment options are available to improve symptoms and prolong life. If pulmonary hypertension is caused by another condition, such as a heart or lung problem, treatments will typically focus on the underlying condition.
Treatment options could include lifestyle changes regarding diet and exercise, oxygen therapy treatment, medications, and possible surgery. Consult your medical professional for assessment and individual treatment options.
The Centre for Disease Control suggests that not all pulmonary hypertension can be prevented but individuals can take steps to prevent it by making healthy lifestyle changes, managing high blood pressure, managing coronary heart disease, chronic liver disease, and chronic lung disease from tobacco use.
For more information visit the Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada website: https://phacanada.ca/Home