Heart

Atherosclerosis

What is atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is more commonly called “hardening of the arteries”. The condition may affect arteries in any part of the body, but the term is most often applied to disease in the arteries that supply blood to the legs: the “peripheral arteries”.

Peripheral arterial disease is usually accompanied by atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries (increasing the risk of heart attack) and brain (increasing the risk of stroke).

There may be no symptoms associated with peripheral vascular disease until the condition is far advanced. The disease may produce pain in the calves of the legs when walking and may cause the feet to be cold or fail to heal after minor injury. Peripheral arterial disease requires long-term management.

Atherosclerosis is a disease with a very slow progression that can begin as early as childhood. There is no known cause of the condition, but it may start with damage or injury to the inner layer of an artery. This damage can be caused by:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • High triglycerides, a type of fat (lipid) in the blood
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • Obesity
  • Inflammation from an unknown cause or from diseases such as arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, or inflammatory bowel disease

Some of the potential risk factors of arteriosclerosis are:

  • A family history of early heart disease
  • An unhealthy diet
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • High levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Smoking and other tobacco use

A strong history of heart disease can increase your chances of developing this condition, and the only way to know for sure is through testing conducted by your doctor.

Mild atherosclerosis usually has no symptoms, and symptoms usually don’t occur until an artery is so narrowed or clogged that it completely blocks blood flow. The clot may break apart and lead to a heart attack or stroke.

You should see a doctor if you are having any symptoms caused by lack of blood flow like chest pain, leg pain, or numbness.

Early intervention with diagnosis and treatment can prevent a heart attack or stroke.

Stop smoking

Smoking damages your arteries and is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. The nicotine in cigarettes restricts your blood vessels and forces your heart to work even harder. Quitting can reduce your risk of a heart attack. For more tips and information, consider calling the “quitline” at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Exercise

Your risk of developing arteriosclerosis is lowered when you exercise because it improves blood flow, and lowers blood pressure. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week (or a combination of the two). For example, take the stairs instead of an elevator or go for a walk on your lunch break.

Maintain a healthy weight

Obesity increases your risk of developing coronary artery disease, which is caused by atherosclerosis.

Eat healthy

Aim to eat a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Reduce your consumption of refined carbohydrates, sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.

Reduce your stress levels

Reducing your stress through exercise, relaxation techniques, etc. can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis.

If you have atherosclerosis, we recommend you seek this treatment every year. All of these recommended treatments are covered by AHDI in our Standards of Care.

  • One visit to your doctor per year* (At your visits, take off your shoes so that your doctor can examine your feet for signs of poor blood flow.)
  • One Low-Density Lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) test per year

*Seniors: If you need assistance finding a health plan that will help you seek the care you need in the management of your diabetes, please visit our division dedicated to senior care at SeniorConnectionBenefits.com.

Atrial Fibrillation

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial Fibrillation is a condition affecting the heart’s normal rhythm. Often, medication is used to manage or treat the irregularity, and return the heart to a normal rhythm. Other times this is treated by cardioversion (electrical shock to the heart). Some patients who are not returned to a regular heartbeat or have a recurrence of fibrillation may require long-term medications to control the heart rate and to “thin” their blood. A “blood thinner” is an anticoagulant and is taken to reduce the chance of blood clots and strokes. A side effect of blood thinners can be bleeding.

This condition is most commonly caused by problems with the heart’s structure, and some examples are:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • Heart defect that you’re born with (congenital heart defect)
  • Heart valve problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Lung diseases
  • Physical stress due to surgery, pneumonia or other illnesses
  • Previous heart surgery
  • Problem with the heart’s natural pacemaker (sick sinus syndrome)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Thyroid disease such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and other metabolic imbalances
  • Use of stimulants, including certain medications, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol
  • Viral infections

It is important to note that some people diagnosed with atrial fibrillation have no other known heart problems or preexisting damage to their heart.

You should make an appointment with your primary care physician if you notice an irregular or pounding heartbeat. You can even request a referral to a cardiologist.

Other symptoms of the condition include:

  • Sensations of a fast, fluttering or pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

It is important to note that some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms.

The most obvious symptom of atrial fibrillation is heart palpitations, which feel like a pounding, fluttering, or irregular heartbeat that can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. You may also have a heart rate of over 100 beats a minute during episodes.

You should call 911 if episodes:

  • Spread to your arms, back, neck, or jaw
  • Makes your chest feel tight and/or heavy
  • Is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, and feeling or being sick
  • Lasts more than 15 minutes

These signs indicate a possible heart attack and you need immediate emergency medical assistance.

Eat healthy

Choose foods that are low in salt and solid fats, and opt for adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet.

Exercise regularly

Try to exercise daily and increase your overall physical activity.

Quit smoking

For more tips and information, consider calling the “quitline” at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Maintain a healthy weight

Obesity increases the risk that you will develop heart disease. If you already have atrial fibrillation, losing weight can help manage your symptoms.

Keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control

Take any medications prescribed to control your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Limit alcohol consumption

Even modest amounts of alcohol can trigger atrial fibrillation.

If you have atrial fibrillation, we recommend you see your doctor every year. All of these recommended treatments are covered by AHDI in our Standards of Care.

If you need additional resources to help manage your atrial fibrillation, visit the American Heart Association’s website.

Congestive Heart Failure

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Heart failure means that your heart muscle doesn’t pump as much blood as your body needs. Failure doesn’t mean that your heart has stopped. It means that your heart is not pumping as well as it should.

Because your heart cannot pump well, your body tries to make up for it. To do this:

  • Your body holds on to salt and water. This increases the amount of blood in your bloodstream
  • Your heart beats faster
  • Your heart may get bigger

Your body has an amazing ability to make up for heart failure. It may do such a good job that you don’t know you have a disease. But at some point, your heart and body will no longer be able to keep up. Then fluid starts to build up in your body, and you have symptoms like feeling weak and out of breath.

This fluid buildup is called congestion. It’s why some doctors call the disease congestive heart failure.

Heart failure usually gets worse over time. But treatment can slow the disease and help you feel better and live longer.

If you feel like you may be at risk for CHF or have concerns about your overall cardiovascular health, please talk to your physician.

The main cause of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is Coronary Artery Disease. You can find out more about this condition here (insert a link to the page about this condition).

Risk factors that lead to Coronary Artery Disease are high cholesterol and/or the presence of triglycerides in your blood.

Symptoms of CHF can develop slowly over time. These 12 symptoms can indicate that you might have the condition:

  • Shortness of breath with activity or when lying down
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Wheezing
  • A cough that doesn’t go away or a cough that brings up white or pink mucus with spots of blood
  • Swelling of the belly area
  • Very rapid weight gain from fluid buildup
  • Nausea and lack of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness
  • Chest pain if heart failure is caused by a heart attack

You should call 911 if:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting or severe weakness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat with shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting
  • Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up white or pink, foamy mucus

If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, call your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms suddenly become worse
  • You develop a new symptom
  • You gain 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) or more within a few days

Don’t smoke

Smoking damages the blood vessels and raises blood pressure. It lowers blood oxygen levels and speeds up the heartbeat. Quitting is the best way to reduce the risk of heart problems. If you need help quitting, talk to your provider. You can’t be considered for a heart transplant if you continue to smoke. Also avoid secondhand smoke.

Check your legs, ankles, and feet for swelling

Do this every day. Call your health care provider if the swelling worsens.

Weigh yourself

Ask your health care provider how often you should do this. Weight gain may mean your body is holding onto fluid. You may need a change in treatment. Call your provider if you gain 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) or more within a few days.

Manage weight

Being overweight increases the risk of heart problems. Ask your health care provider what weight is best for you. Even losing a small amount of weight can help improve heart health.

Eat a healthy diet

Aim to eat a diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins. Limit saturated or trans fats.

Limit salt

Too much salt, also called sodium, can make the body hold onto water. This is called water retention. It makes the heart work harder. Symptoms include shortness of breath and swollen legs, ankles, and feet.

Ask your healthcare provider if you should follow a no-salt or low-salt diet. Remember that salt is already added to prepared foods.

Limit alcohol

Alcohol can interfere with certain medicines. It also weakens the heart and increases the risk of irregular heartbeats. If you have heart failure, your health care provider may recommend that you don’t drink alcohol.

Ask your doctor how much fluids you can drink

If you have severe heart failure, your provider may suggest that you limit the amount of fluids you drink.

Stay as active as possible

Moderate exercise helps keep the heart and body healthy. But be sure to talk to your health care provider about an exercise program that’s right for you. If you have heart failure, your provider may suggest a walking program or a cardiac rehabilitation program at your local hospital.

Reduce stress

Strong emotions such as anxiety or anger can make the heartbeat faster. Breathing becomes heavier and blood pressure goes up. These changes can make heart failure worse.

Find ways to reduce emotional stress

Practicing mindfulness and connecting with others in support groups are some ways to reduce and manage stress.

Get better sleep

Heart failure can cause shortness of breath, especially when lying down. Try sleeping with your head propped up using a pillow or a wedge. If you snore or have had other sleep problems, make sure you get tested for sleep apnea.

Get recommended vaccinations

Ask your healthcare provider about getting influenza, pneumonia, and COVID-19 vaccinations.

If you have Congestive Heart Failure, we recommend you seek this treatment every year. All of these recommended treatments are covered by AHDI in our Standards of Care.

  • One visit to your doctor a year
  • The following laboratory tests: one serum creatinine and potassium

If you need additional resources to help manage your Congestive Heart Failure, visit the American Heart Association’s website.

Coronary Artery Disease

What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary Artery Disease, a condition that usually takes decades to develop, occurs when the major blood vessels that supply your heart cannot send enough blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your heart.

You should make an appointment to see your primary care doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

Chest pain (angina)

You may feel pressure or tightness in your chest. Some people say it feels like someone is standing on their chest. The chest pain usually occurs on the middle or left side of the chest. Activity or strong emotions can trigger angina. The pain usually goes away within minutes after the triggering event ends. In some people, especially women, the pain may be brief or sharp and felt in the neck, arm or back.

Shortness of breath

You may feel like you can’t catch your breath.

Fatigue

If the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs, you may feel unusually tired.

Heart attack

A completely blocked coronary artery will cause a heart attack. The classic signs and symptoms of a heart attack include crushing chest pain or pressure, shoulder or arm pain, shortness of breath, and sweating. Women may have less typical symptoms, such as neck or jaw pain, nausea and fatigue. Some heart attacks don’t cause any noticeable signs or symptoms.

Chest pain (angina) is one of the most common symptoms of CAD.

You should call 911 if:

  • You experience chest pain and/or shortness of breath
  • Your chest feels tight and/or heavy
  • You feel a sensation of pressure and/or aching in your chest
  • You have pain or discomfort that spreads to your shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, teeth, or upper abdomen
  • You become nauseated
  • You have indigestion, heartburn, or abdominal pain
  • You become dizzy, lightheaded, or feel faint
  • You are sweating

These signs indicate a possible heart attack and you need immediate emergency medical assistance.

Don’t smoke

Smoking is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease. Nicotine tightens blood vessels and forces the heart to work harder. Not smoking is one of the best ways to lower the risk of a heart attack.

Control blood pressure

Adults should get their blood pressure checked by a health care provider at least every two years. You may need more-frequent checks if you have a history of high blood pressure. Ask your health care provider what blood pressure goal is best for you.

Manage cholesterol

Adults should get a cholesterol test when in their 20s and at least every five years after. Some people need more-frequent checks. The optimal LDL cholesterol level is lower than 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.4 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). But it depends on your overall health. If you have other risk factors for heart disease, your target LDL cholesterol may be below 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L). Ask your provider what your cholesterol levels should be.

Check your blood sugar

If you have diabetes, carefully managing your blood sugar can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Eat heart-healthy foods

Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Reduce salt and sugar. Eating one or two servings of fish a week also may help keep the heart healthy.

Avoid or limit alcohol

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.

Get moving

Exercise helps manage weight and control diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure — all risk factors for coronary artery disease. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight increases the risk of coronary artery disease. Losing even a small amount of weight can help reduce risk factors for coronary artery disease.

Ask about cardiac rehabilitation

If you’ve had heart surgery, your doctor may suggest a program of education, counseling and exercise training that’s designed to help improve your health.

Manage stress

Find ways to help reduce emotional stress. Getting more exercise, practicing mindfulness, and connecting with others in support groups are some ways to tame stress.

Get recommended vaccines

Get a flu (influenza) vaccine each year.

If you have Coronary Artery Disease, we recommend you seek this treatment every year. All of these recommended treatments are covered by AHDI in our Standards of Care.

  • One regular visit with your doctor a year
  • One Low-Density Lipoprotein (“bad cholesterol”) test per year

If you need additional resources to help manage your Coronary Artery Disease, visit the American Heart Association’s website.

Hyperlipidemia

What is Hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol, means you have too many lipids (fats) in your blood. Your liver creates cholesterol to help you digest food and make things like hormones. But you also eat cholesterol in foods from the meat and dairy aisles. Since your liver can make as much cholesterol as you need, the cholesterol in foods you eat is extra.

Bad cholesterol (LDL) is the most dangerous type because it causes hardened cholesterol deposits and blockages (plaque) to collect inside of your blood vessels. This makes it harder for your blood to get through, which puts you at risk for a stroke or heart attack.

Hyperlipidemia is most commonly associated with high-fat diets, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity and diabetes. There are also genetic causes. Familial hypercholesterolemia, one form of hyperlipidemia, is the most common dominantly inherited genetic disorder in humans worldwide.

What to do if you think you have Hyperlipidemia?

You should make an appointment with your primary care physician if you think you have high cholesterol. Early on, the condition has no symptoms, so a blood test is the only way to know if you have it.

However, if high cholesterol goes untreated and undiagnosed for a long period of time, you may experience:

  • chest pain with exertion
  • jaw pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • flushing
  • nausea
  • trouble breathing

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a person’s first cholesterol screening should occur between the ages of 9 and 11, and then be repeated every five years after that.

The NHLBI recommends that cholesterol screenings occur every one to two years for men ages 45 to 65 and for women ages 55 to 65. People over 65 should receive cholesterol tests annually.

If your test results aren’t within desirable ranges, your doctor might recommend more-frequent measurements. Your doctor might also suggest more-frequent tests if you have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease or other risk factors, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

When your cholesterol levels are too high, the following may happen:

  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Chest pain
  • Stroke
  • Pain while walking

It is important to be screened regularly for high cholesterol to avoid these things occurring.

You should call 911 if you experience signs of a heart attack or stroke like:

Heart attack signs:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Jaw pain
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Arm pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Nausea
  • Light headedness
  • Unusual fatigue

Stroke signs:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Eat heart healthy foods
  • Exercise on most days of the week
  • Quit smoking
  • Lose weight if you are overweight
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation

If you have Hyperlipidemia, we recommend you have a lipid panel done every year, which would be covered by AHDI in our Standards of Care.

For more information on Hyperlipidemia, visit the American Heart Association’s website.

Hypertension

What is Hypertension?

When most people think about high blood pressure and the associated risks, they often think about strokes or heart attacks. Did you know that high blood pressure, or hypertension, impacts the body in several other ways as well? Increased blood pressure promotes the buildup of artery clogging plaque, which can lead to peripheral artery disease, a narrowing of the arteries that support blood flow to your legs, arms, and stomach. This can cause recurring pain and discomfort.

Hypertension can also lead to significant cognitive decline. Brain fog, confusion or memory troubles have been associated with hypertension, particularly those in their mid-forties and older. If left untreated or unmanaged, increased blood pressure can also be a contributing factor to vascular dementia, a type of cognitive impairment that impacts executive function and memory.

High blood pressure usually develops over time. It can happen because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as not getting enough regular physical activity. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and having obesity, can also increase the risk for developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure can also happen during pregnancy.

You should make an appointment with your primary care physician if you think you have high blood pressure. Early on, the condition has no symptoms, so a blood test is the only way to know if you have it.

However, if high blood pressure goes untreated and undiagnosed for a long period of time, you may experience:

  • Blurry or double vision
  • Lightheadedness/Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nosebleeds
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

Starting at age 18, ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years. If you’re age 40 or older, or you’re 18 to 39 with a high risk of high blood pressure, ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading every year.

You may be high risk if you:

  • Have excessive alcohol consumption over many years.
  • Have little to no physical activity
  • Eat excessive amounts of salt in your diet that exceed the recommended amounts of 1,500 to 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
  • Have a long history of smoking and/or drug abuse
  • Are experiencing extreme emotional stress

When your blood pressure levels are too high, the following may happen:

  • Moderate or severe headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nosebleeds
  • Palpitations
  • Feeling your pulse in your neck

It is important to be screened regularly for high blood pressure to avoid these things occurring.

You should call 911 if you experience signs of a heart attack or stroke like:

Heart attack signs

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Jaw pain
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Arm pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Nausea
  • Light headedness
  • Unusual fatigue

Stroke signs

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
  • Avoid smoking
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet, especially one that is low in salt.
  • Exercise under the directions of your doctor.
  • If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor about weight-loss options.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Manage stress
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests.

If you have Hypertension, we recommend you seek this treatment every year. All of these recommended treatments are covered by AHDI in our Standards of Care.

  • One visit to your doctor per year
  • One serum creatinine per year

For more information, visit https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure

Pulmonary Hypertension

What is Pulmonary Hypertension?

Pulmonary hypertension makes it harder for blood to flow through the lungs due to narrowing of the pulmonary arteries. This causes the right side of the heart to work harder to pump blood and over time the heart muscle weakens and fails.

Pulmonary artery pressure is much harder to measure than just applying a blood pressure cuff to an arm and therefore often escapes detection much more often than does high blood pressure in the “systemic” arteries.

Pulmonary hypertension is most associated with chronic lung disease but may also be associated with some types of heart disease, auto-immune diseases, and other, rarer, conditions.

 

Pulmonary Hypertension is classified into 5 groups, depending on the cause.

Group 1: Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH)

Causes include:

  • Unknown cause (idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension)
  • Changes in a gene passed down through families (heritable pulmonary arterial hypertension)
  • Use of certain drugs or illegal substances
  • Heart problems present at birth (congenital heart disease)
  • Other conditions such as HIV infection, chronic liver disease (cirrhosis) and connective tissue disorders (scleroderma, lupus, others)

Group 2: Pulmonary hypertension caused by left-sided heart disease

Causes include:

  • Left-sided heart valve disease such as mitral valve or aortic valve disease
  • Failure of the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle)

Group 3: Pulmonary hypertension caused by lung disease

Causes include:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Scarring of the tissue between the lung’s air sacs (pulmonary fibrosis)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Long-term exposure to high altitudes in people who may be at higher risk of pulmonary hypertension

Group 4: Pulmonary hypertension caused by chronic blood clots

Causes include:

  • Chronic blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary emboli)
  • Other clotting disorders

Group 5: Pulmonary hypertension triggered by other health conditions

Causes include:

  • Blood disorders, including polycythemia vera and essential thrombocythemia
  • Inflammatory disorders such as sarcoidosis and vasculitis
  • Metabolic disorders, including glycogen storage disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Tumors pressing against pulmonary arteries

Pulmonary Hypertension is classified into 5 groups, depending on the cause.

Group 1: Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH)

Causes include:

  • Unknown cause (idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension)
  • Changes in a gene passed down through families (heritable pulmonary arterial hypertension)
  • Use of certain drugs or illegal substances
  • Heart problems present at birth (congenital heart disease)
  • Other conditions such as HIV infection, chronic liver disease (cirrhosis) and connective tissue disorders (scleroderma, lupus, others)

Group 2: Pulmonary hypertension caused by left-sided heart disease

Causes include:

  • Left-sided heart valve disease such as mitral valve or aortic valve disease
  • Failure of the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle)

Group 3: Pulmonary hypertension caused by lung disease

Causes include:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Scarring of the tissue between the lung’s air sacs (pulmonary fibrosis)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Long-term exposure to high altitudes in people who may be at higher risk of pulmonary hypertension

Group 4: Pulmonary hypertension caused by chronic blood clots

Causes include:

  • Chronic blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary emboli)
  • Other clotting disorders

Group 5: Pulmonary hypertension triggered by other health conditions

Causes include:

  • Blood disorders, including polycythemia vera and essential thrombocythemia
  • Inflammatory disorders such as sarcoidosis and vasculitis
  • Metabolic disorders, including glycogen storage disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Tumors pressing against pulmonary arteries

Discussing your medical history and symptoms with a healthcare professional can help you in getting a clear diagnosis. The condition is diagnosed primarily with an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart).

Early warning signs that can indicate the need for assessment by doctors include:

  • shortness of breath
  • tiredness
  • feeling faint or dizzy
  • chest pain (angina)
  • a racing heartbeat (palpitations)
  • swelling (oedema) in the legs, ankles, feet or tummy (abdomen)

The symptoms often get worse during exercise, which can limit your ability to take part in physical activities.

  • Pulmonary hypertension happens at all ages, including children, and its incidence increases with age
  • Pulmonary hypertension is more common among women, non-Hispanic black people, and people aged 75 or older

Most commonly, the condition causes shortness of breath with activity as one of the first symptoms.

If you experience the following, call 911 or visit the emergency room:

  • Chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coughing up blood
  • Worsening shortness of breath
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Headache
  • Blue lips, fingernails, or earlobes

Making healthy lifestyle changes can help prevent your Pulmonary Hypertension from getting worse. Consider quitting smoking, reducing the salt in your diet, and eating a healthy diet overall.

If you have Pulmonary Hypertension, we recommend you see your doctor twice a year. Recommended treatments are covered by AHDI in our Standards of Care.

For more information, visit https://phassociation.org/

Pulmonary Hypertension with COPD

What is Pulmonary Hypertension with COPD?

Pulmonary hypertension is most commonly associated with chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) but may also be associated with some types of heart disease, auto-immune diseases, and other, rarer, conditions.

Pulmonary Hypertension is classified into 5 groups, depending on the cause.

Group 1: Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH)

Causes include:

  • Unknown cause (idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension)
  • Changes in a gene passed down through families (heritable pulmonary arterial hypertension)
  • Use of certain drugs or illegal substances
  • Heart problems present at birth (congenital heart disease)
  • Other conditions such as HIV infection, chronic liver disease (cirrhosis) and connective tissue disorders (scleroderma, lupus, others)

Group 2: Pulmonary hypertension caused by left-sided heart disease

Causes include:

  • Left-sided heart valve disease such as mitral valve or aortic valve disease
  • Failure of the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle)

Group 3: Pulmonary hypertension caused by lung disease

Causes include:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Scarring of the tissue between the lung’s air sacs (pulmonary fibrosis)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Long-term exposure to high altitudes in people who may be at higher risk of pulmonary hypertension

Group 4: Pulmonary hypertension caused by chronic blood clots

Causes include:

  • Chronic blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary emboli)
  • Other clotting disorders

Group 5: Pulmonary hypertension triggered by other health conditions

Causes include:

  • Blood disorders, including polycythemia vera and essential thrombocythemia
  • Inflammatory disorders such as sarcoidosis and vasculitis
  • Metabolic disorders, including glycogen storage disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Tumors pressing against pulmonary arteries

Discussing your medical history and symptoms with a healthcare professional can help you in getting a clear diagnosis. The condition is diagnosed primarily with an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart).

Early warning signs that can indicate the need for assessment by doctors include:

  • shortness of breath
  • tiredness
  • feeling faint or dizzy
  • chest pain (angina)
  • a racing heartbeat (palpitations)
  • swelling (oedema) in the legs, ankles, feet or tummy (abdomen)

The symptoms often get worse during exercise, which can limit your ability to take part in physical activities.

  • Pulmonary hypertension happens at all ages, including children, and its incidence increases with age
  • Pulmonary hypertension is more common among women, non-Hispanic black people, and people aged 75 or older

Most commonly, the condition causes shortness of breath with activity as one of the first symptoms.

If you experience the following, call 911 or visit the emergency room:

  • Chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coughing up blood
  • Worsening shortness of breath
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Headache
  • Blue lips, fingernails, or earlobes

Making healthy lifestyle changes can help prevent your Pulmonary Hypertension from getting worse. Consider quitting smoking, reducing the salt in your diet, and eating a healthy diet overall.

If you have Pulmonary Hypertension, we recommend you seek this treatment every year. All of these recommended treatments are covered by AHDI in our Standards of Care.

  • Two visits to the doctor a year
  • If your pulmonary hypertension is related to low oxygen levels, as is usually the case in COPD, you should also be receiving supplemental oxygen

For more information, visit https://phassociation.org/