Health Care

Under Pressure: Hypertension vs. Pulmonary Hypertension

An adult male testing his blood pressure at home

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You may have heard of hypertension, or high blood pressure, but is it the same as pulmonary hypertension? Do they have the same symptoms and risk factors? You’ve come to the right place to find the answers.

Read on as AdventHealth cardiologists Linus Wodi, MD and James Tarver III, MD explain hypertension and pulmonary hypertension in depth, how they differ, their unique risk factors and treatment options.

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a common condition where the force at which blood pushes against the walls of the arteries is so great that it can cause damage. “Someone whose blood pressure is higher than 130/80 is considered to have hypertension, though it’s possible to be hypertensive for quite a long time before any noticeable symptoms arise,” says Dr. Wodi.

Some symptoms that may appear at an earlier stage of hypertension include dizzy spells, nosebleeds and/or headaches.

When left untreated, the damage that high blood pressure does to your circulatory system can be a significant contributing factor to heart attack, stroke and other dangers to your health.

Hypertension Risk Factors

“Certain physical traits and lifestyle choices can put you at a greater risk for hypertension. Some risk factors you can control, and others you can’t,” says Dr. Wodi. He continues, “For instance, males are more likely than females to have high blood pressure and it’s more common in Black, Hispanic and Asian individuals. But we get to choose what we put in our bodies, how much physical activity we get and whether we smoke.”

Here are the risk factors you should know:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • High sodium/low potassium diet
  • Increasing age
  • Obesity
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Physical inactivity
  • Race/ethnicity/gender
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Type 2 diabetes diagnosis

Treatment Options for Hypertension

If your doctor diagnoses you with high blood pressure, they can work with you to make simple changes to your daily habits that might completely resolve it. They may also recommend medication.

Here are some suggestions your doctor may offer:

  • Aim to consume less than 1,500 mg/day of sodium (salt)
  • Be more physically active; at least 90 to 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week can significantly decrease your blood pressure
  • Don’t smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Eat a healthy diet low in saturated and trans fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Eat foods rich in potassium like bananas, oranges, apricots and dried fruits (3,500 to 5,000 mg/day)
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Take medicine as prescribed

What is Pulmonary Hypertension?

Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure that occurs in the lungs’ blood vessels. “It’s different from the systemic blood pressure that your doctor determines with an arm cuff during a normal exam,” explains Dr. Tarver. “It reflects the force the heart must exert to pump blood through the lungs' arteries.” Patients with pulmonary hypertension may feel extremely fatigued, dizzy and short of breath.

Pulmonary Hypertension Risk Factors

Pulmonary hypertension is most often diagnosed in people ages 30 to 60. Risk factors include:

  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Connective tissue diseases like scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Drug misuse
  • Family history of pulmonary hypertension
  • History of blood clots in your legs or lungs
  • Living at a high altitude
  • Pulmonary fibrosis

Treatment Options for Pulmonary Hypertension

Diagnosis and management of pulmonary hypertension requires evaluation and support by a provider with specialized training in this disease. Your doctor may also determine that you’d benefit from medications that help manage pulmonary hypertension. Unlike systemic hypertension, the medications used to treat this pulmonary hypertension require special approval and are not available at your local pharmacy.

“In cases of pulmonary hypertension due to blood clots in the lung, a surgical procedure called a pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE) may be necessary. As pulmonary hypertension is a complex disease, patients often benefit from receiving care at centers accredited by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association as Comprehensive or Regional Care Centers,” says Dr. Tarver.

Expert Care to Put You At Ease

At AdventHealth, we provide leading-edge cardiovascular care from the heart. From connecting you with others through our cardiac support groups to providing the emergency medical care you or your loved one needs, we’re here to help you feel whole.

To request an appointment with a cardiologist, visit FindHeartCare.com.

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