An estimated 4,000 people in America have pulmonary hypertension (PH), a type of high blood pressure that affects the lungs and heart, making it hard to breathe and often causing dizziness or fatigue, among other symptoms. Left untreated, the disease can cause heart failure.
Although there’s no known cure for PH, there are many different types of treatments for it, including medication and supplied oxygen. A prescribed exercise regimen, however, has not been common.
That could change, based on UT Southwestern research.
“Clinicians have traditionally been skeptical about prescribing exercise for patients with chronic pulmonary hypertension due to concerns that training might put further strain on the heart,” says UT Southwestern preventive cardiologist Jarett Berry, M.D., who recently served as senior author for a study involving more than 400 participants. “Our analysis found those concerns may be misplaced. More importantly, exercise had a positive effect on several measures of heart function as well as on overall quality of life.”
Dr. Berry cautions that the new findings do not mean those with pulmonary hypertension should jump on a bike, start jogging, or launch into some other exercise regimen without first consulting their physician.
Most of the cases Dr. Berry and his team examined had supervised exercise training and involved exercise with a lower level of intensity than traditionally prescribed for heart failure patients.