Pulmonary hypertension patients can safely benefit from exercise, review suggests

3 Sep

Doctors are usually wary of advising patients with pulmonary hypertension to exercise for fear

that it may put too much extra strain on the heart. However, a new review suggests patients with the

condition can benefit safely from exercise and improve their quality of life.

ground level view of walking feet in forest
The new review suggests that patients with pulmonary hypertension can reduce their blood pressure through exercise without compromising their safety.

Pulmonary hypertension is where there is high blood pressure in the arteries between the heart and

the lungs. People with the condition find it hard to breathe, get tired easily and have dizzy


In the US, estimates suggest pulmonary hypertension affects around 10-15 people per million of the

population. Left untreated, the condition can lead to heart failure.

Cardiologists from the University of Texas

Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, report in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure how they pooled and analyzed data on over 400 participants

taking part in different studies.

The analysis shows that exercise training can reduce blood pressure in the arteries affected

by pulmonary hypertension and increase exercise tolerance without compromising safety.

Senior author Jarett Berry, associate professor of internal medicine and clinical sciences, says

their findings suggest the traditional skepticism of doctors about suggesting exercise for patients

with pulmonary hypertension may be misplaced.

“More importantly, exercise had a positive effect on

several measures of heart function as well as overall quality of life,” he adds.

The team reviewed 16 studies covering a total of 434 participants with pulmonary hypertension. The

pooled analysis found exercise training was linked to a significant improvement in 6-minute walking

distance, peak oxygen uptake, arterial blood pressure, peak exercise rate and quality of life


Study authors recommend patients discuss exercise with their doctors

The authors also note that “exercise training was well tolerated with a low dropout rate and no

major adverse events related to exercise training,” and conclude:

“Exercise training in patients with pulmonary hypertension appears safe and is

associated with a significant improvement in exercise capacity, pulmonary arterial pressure and quality

of life.”

However, the authors are not suggesting people with pulmonary hypertension should now start vigorous

cycling or jogging.

Many of the studies they reviewed looked at the effects of lower levels of exercise

than that normally prescribed for patients with heart failure. In addition, many of the programs involved

supervised exercise.

The team recommends pulmonary hypertension patients talk to their doctor before embarking on an

exercise program.

Meanwhile, Medical News Today has learned that pulmonary

hypertension is a growing problem in US children, with national hospital charges rising from

millions to billions of dollars between 1997 and 2012. The condition used to be most common in children

with congenital heart disease, but figures show the majority of those hospitalized in 2012 did not have

congenital heart diseases.

Written by Catharine Paddock PhD

Copyright: Medical News Today

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