Is Obesity Associated with Pulmonary Hypertension?
— By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.
In recent years, a relationship between obesity and pulmonary hypertension has emerged.
Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) is a rare but fatal disease, so it is critical to for patients to be diagnosed and treated early to help them manage their symptoms. When diagnosis is delayed, patients are likely to have a more advanced case, multiple comorbidities and a worse survival rate. Although anyone can develop PH, it is more common in women, people over 75 years and non-Hispanic Black patients. In recent years, a relationship between obesity and PH has emerged.1
Studies find that obesity is independently associated with pulmonary hypertension, even among patients with otherwise normal cardiac function. For those who have cardiac and pulmonary conditions, the prevalence of PH increases. 2 Additional risks for people with obesity may be a result of expansion of adipose tissue around the pulmonary artery, which can accelerate progression.3
Interestingly, patients with obesity who have precapillary PH have lower mortality than nonobese counterparts. This is similar to the obesity paradox that patients with heart failure sometimes experience. Continued research is needed to better understand how underlying factors contribute to obesity-related PH and how they may be affected by other comorbidities.
Weight Loss through a Very Low Calorie Diet Can Benefit PH Patients
The Pulmonary Vascular Research Institute supports weight reduction through various means as an effective treatment, including the use of hypocaloric, or Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD). Medically-supervised VLCDs, such as New Direction, help patients succeed in achieving their weight loss goals with few adverse effects and they are well-tolerated by most patients. Weight loss also helps reduce pulmonary arterial pressure, suggesting patients with PH may benefit from lifestyle intervention that includes a VLCD and increased activity. It is important for patients to consult with a pulmonologist or cardiologist before undertaking any dietary changes as their fluids and sodium intake may need additional monitoring.
New and emerging therapies continue to explore causes and alternative treatments that have increased survival rates from an average of fewer than three years to closer to 10 years, with some patients living with the disease for up to 20 years. With early treatment, PH patients can continue to have productive lives with well-managed symptoms, and weight loss, lifestyle change and ongoing research may continue to extend that opportunity.
- The Association between Obesity and Pulmonary Hypertension: A Tale of Two Diseases
- Obesity is Associated with Pulmonary Hypertension and Modifies Outcomes
- Obesity and Pulmonary Hypertension
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.