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Health Questions

Pulmonary hypertension - at home

What Happened in the Hospital

Pulmonary hypertension (PAH) is abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. It makes the right side of the heart need to work harder than normal.

As the illness progresses, you will need to learn more about taking care of yourself, as well as to make changes in the home and get more help around the home.

Keep Active

Try walking to build up strength:

  • Ask the doctor or therapist how far to walk.
  • Slowly increase how far you walk.
  • Try not to talk when you walk.

Ride a stationary bike. Ask your doctor or therapist how long and how hard to ride.

Make yourself stronger even when you are sitting:

  • Use small weights or rubber tubing to make your arms and shoulders stronger.
  • Stand up and sit down several times.
  • Hold your legs straight out in front of you.

Self-care

Eat smaller meals more often. It might be easier to breathe when your stomach isn't full. Try to eat 6 small meals a day. Do not drink a lot of liquid before eating, or with your meals.

Ask your doctor what foods to eat to get more energy.

If you smoke, STOP. Stay away from smokers when you are out, and do not allow smoking in your home. Stay away from strong odors and fumes. Do breathing exercises.

Take all the medicines that your doctor prescribed for you.

Talk to your doctor if you feel depressed or anxious.

Stay Away from Infections

Get a flu shot every year. Ask your doctor if you should get a pneumonia vaccine.

Wash your hands often, and always after you go to the bathroom and when you are around people who are sick.

Stay away from crowds. Ask a visitor with a cold to wear a mask.

Make It Easy for Yourself at Home

Place items you use a lot in spots where you do not have to reach or bend over to get them. Use a cart with wheels to move things around the house and kitchen. Use an electric can opener, dishwasher, and other things that will make your chores easier to do. Use cooking tools (knives, peelers, and pans) that are not heavy.

Tips to save energy:

  • Use slow, steady motions when you are doing things.
  • Sit down if you can when you are cooking, eating, dressing, and bathing.
  • Get help for harder tasks.
  • Do not try to do too much in one day.
  • Keep the phone with you or near you.
  • Wrap yourself in a towel rather than drying off.
  • Try to reduce stress in your life.

Going Home with Oxygen

You received oxygen treatment, and you may need to keep using oxygen when you go home. Never change how much oxygen is flowing without asking your doctor.

Always have a back-up supply of oxygen in the home or with you when you go out. Keep the phone number of your oxygen supplier with you at all times. Learn how to use oxygen safely at home.

Follow-up

Your hospital doctor or nurse may ask you to make a follow-up visit with:

  • Your primary care doctor
  • Your lung doctor (pulmonologist) or your heart doctor (cardiologist)
  • Someone who can help you stop smoking, if you smoke

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if your breathing is:

  • Getting harder
  • Faster than before
  • Shallow, and you cannot get a deep breath

Also call your doctor if:

  • You need to lean forward when sitting to breathe easier.
  • You feel sleepy or confused.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your fingertips, or the skin around your fingernails, are blue.

See also: Heart failure-discharge

References

McLaughlin VV, Archer SL, Badesch DB, Barst RJ, Farber HW, Lindner JR, et al: American College of Cardiology Foundation Task Force on Expert Consensus Documents; American Heart Association; American College of Chest Physicians; American Thoracic Society, Inc; Pulmonary Hypertension Association. ACCF/AHA 2009 expert consensus document on pulmonary hypertension: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation Task Force on Expert Consensus Documents and the American Heart Association developed in collaboration with the American College of Chest Physicians: American Thoracic Society, Inc; and the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2009;53:1573-1619.

Rich S. Pulmonary hypertension. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 78.


Review Date: 6/27/2011
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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