A recent study published in Circulation: Heart Failure journal entitled “Efficacy and Safety of Exercise Training in Chronic Pulmonary Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” clinicians revealed that it is safe for patients with pulmonary hypertension (PH) to exercise.
Pulmonary hypertension is a condition characterized by an increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary artery. As a result, patients with PH suffer from shortness of breath, fainting, dizziness and leg swelling. A number of factors may cause PH including, among others, genetic risk factors, other medical conditions like connective tissue disorders, sleep disorders, heart abnormalities, pulmonary fibrosis, use of stimulant drugs, and chronic liver disease. Unfortunately, PH may lead to more serious complications like blood clots, right-sided heart failure, arrhythmia and bleeding. From a therapeutic standpoint, several classes of medications are utilized to treat PH. Examples include blood vessel dilators, endothelin receptor antagonists, anticoagulants, oxygen, and high-dose calcium channel blockers. In some cases where medications don’t show improvement, surgery may be an option.
Lifestyle changes including quitting smoking, low stress and proper diet may also improve symptoms due to PH. With respect to lifestyle exercise, it is traditionally accepted that PH can be a severe condition with a markedly decreased exercise tolerance such as heart failure. However, a recent study conducted at UT Southwestern Medical Center in collaboration with other centers, suggest otherwise.
In this study, clinicians evaluated the efficacy and safety of exercise training in patients with PH. A total of 434 patients have participated in 16 studies. The studies consisted primarily of a six-minute walk distance during which peak oxygen uptake, pulmonary arterial pressure, heart rate and quality of life were evaluated. During these studies, a lower dropout rate from the participants was observed and overall the results showed a significant improvement after the six-minute walk distance in terms of oxygen uptake, heart rate and pulmonary arterial pressure. Furthermore, a very positive questionnaire score was obtained for quality of life and the exercise training was well tolerated by the participants without major negative events related to the exercise.
In conclusion, the results demonstrated that patients suffering from pulmonary hypertension can exercise safely. Moderate exercise training is associated with a significant improvement in activity, pulmonary arterial pressure and quality of life. However, this does not mean that patients with PH should start jogging, jumping on bikes, or engaging in heavy exercises without consulting a physician.