How can I help in the management of my pulmonary hypertension?

Now that you have been diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, your health care provider has likely prescribed management approaches that include taking medications; making lifestyle and dietary changes; having surgery, if necessary; and establishing a regular schedule of check-up appointments. Another document, "Pulmonary Hypertension: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment," discusses the medical and surgical treatments.

This document provides other suggestions -- the dietary and lifestyle changes -- you can make to become an active participant in the management of your illness.

Medication guidelines

  • Know the names of your medications and how they work. Keep a list with you.
  • Take your medications at the same time every day. If you forget a dose, do not take two doses to make up for the dose you missed.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter drugs unless you ask your doctor or pharmacist first. Some drugs such as decongestants (including Benadryl, Dimetapp, and Sudafed and other drugs containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (such as Advil, Motrin, and Indocin) can cause problems in people who have heart failure. Also avoid any over-the-counter medications whose labels state that caution is to be used if you have high blood pressure.
  • Do not stop taking or change your medications unless you first talk with your doctor.
  • Avoid herbal products because of their uncertain effects when combined with medications used for pulmonary hypertension.

Dietary changes

  • Eat foods that are high in nutrients like potassium (e.g., dried fruits, bananas, oranges) and magnesium (e.g., peanuts, tofu, broccoli) and vitamins.
  • Limit your total daily calories, if necessary, to achieve your ideal body weight.
  • Limit foods that contain refined sugar, saturated fats, and cholesterol.
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber, including whole grains, brans, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Reduce your sodium intake:
    • Buy foods that are low in sodium. Choose foods with labels that read "low salt" and "low sodium."
    • Avoid table salt and seasoning salt.
    • Avoid smoked, cured, salted, and canned meat products.
    • Avoid fast food and limit prepared foods; they usually have a high sodium content.
  • Monitor your fluid intake. Cut down intake of fluids if you have become more short of breath or if you notice swelling.

Lifestyle changes

  • Monitor your weight: weigh yourself at the same time each day and record your weight in a diary or on a calendar. If you notice a rapid weight gain of 2 pounds in one day or 5 pounds over one week, inform your doctor.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight (follow your doctor’s recommendations).
  • Have annual health check-ups with your primary care physician.
  • Activity guidelines:
    • Restrict lifting, pushing, or shoving to less than 20 pounds, since these activities increase the pressure in your arteries and lungs.
    • Walking is important to keep your muscles strong and improve circulation. However, more strenuous forms of aerobic exercise should not be done regularly since your lungs may not be able to keep up with the oxygen demands placed on your body during these activities. Any activities that cause shortness of breath, dizziness, or chest pain should be stopped immediately. Contact your doctor if any of these symptoms occur.
  • Do not smoke or chew tobacco.
  • Avoid or reduce alcohol intake.
  • Avoid pregnancy; use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.
  • Maintain close contact with your health care providers.