Pulmonary Hypertension and Hot Weather: Keeping Normal Pulmonary Artery Pressure in the Heat

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

One factor that can affect pulmonary hypertension is hot weather, as high temperatures can cause blood vessels to dilate and blood pressure to rise. In order to maintain your normal routine in hot weather, it’s important to learn how to keep your pulmonary artery pressure normal in the heat.

This article will discuss the pathophysiology, cause, symptoms, and treatments for pulmonary hypertension. We will also look at strategies for maintaining normal pulmonary artery pressure in hot weather and other general tips for managing pulmonary hypertension.

What is pulmonary hypertension?

According to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, pulmonary hypertension is a rare and serious condition that affects the blood vessels in the lungs, causing blood pressure to become too high.

The blood vessels in the lungs, called pulmonary arteries, carry blood from the heart to the lungs.

In people with pulmonary hypertension, these arteries become narrow, making it difficult for blood to flow through them.

This increases the blood pressure in the lungs, leading to an increased workload on the right side of the heart. Over time, the right side of the heart may become damaged or weakened, leading to heart failure.

Pulmonary hypertension is caused by several conditions, including chronic lung diseases like emphysema and asthma, blood clots that block vessels in the lungs (pulmonary embolism), pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, and certain inherited disorders of connective tissue. But some people with pulmonary hypertension have no known cause for their condition. These patients are said to have idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. In contrast, secondary pulmonary hypertension is caused by structural defects in the heart and lungs.

A woman experiencing shortness of breath due to pulmonary hypertension

What is normal pulmonary artery pressure?

Pulmonary artery (PA) pressure is the pressure in your pulmonary arteries. Normal systolic PA pressure ranges from 15 to 25 mmHg, with an average of about 20 mmHg. However, the normal range can vary depending on your age, size, physical condition, and other factors such as altitude. If the PA pressure is greater than 25 mmHg at rest or 30 mmHg during physical activity, it is abnormally high and would be considered pulmonary hypertension. Your doctor may run some tests to measure your pulmonary artery pressure if you have symptoms such as shortness of breath or fatigue after exercise or when you are resting.

Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension

The symptoms of pulmonary hypertension vary depending on the severity of the disease. Mild pulmonary hypertension may not cause problems, while severe cases can be life threatening. Some symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include:

  • Shortness of breath: This is often the most common and noticeable symptom of pulmonary hypertension. It can occur during physical activity or rest and may worsen over time.
  • Fatigue: People with pulmonary hypertension may experience extreme tiredness and weakness, even after resting.
  • Chest pain: Some people with pulmonary hypertension experience chest pain, which can be a sign of heart strain.
  • Dizziness or fainting: Pulmonary hypertension can cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to dizziness or fainting.
  • Swelling in the ankles, legs, and abdomen: High blood pressure in the lungs can cause fluid to build up in these areas.
  • Bluish color to the lips and skin: This is a sign of low oxygen levels in the blood, which can be caused by pulmonary hypertension.

Pulmonary hypertension classification

There are various pulmonary hypertension classifications. They are also known as pulmonary hypertension grading. Generally, pulmonary hypertension is classified into five categories based on the World Health Organization’s classification system:

Group 1: Pulmonary arterial hypertension

This is a progressive chronic disease that develops when something in your body causes your arteries to narrow, reducing blood flow through your lungs. This makes it harder for your heart to pump blood through your body. The causes of group 1 pulmonary hypertension include lung abnormalities, underlying diseases, and medications.

Group 2: Pulmonary hypertension due to left heart disease

This type of pulmonary hypertension is caused by conditions that affect the left side of the heart, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, mitral stenosis, and aortic stenosis.

Be prepared for any weather!
Get accurate hourly and 72-hour weather forecasts and plan your day with confidence!
Weatherwell app screenshot

Group 3: Pulmonary hypertension due to lung diseases and hypoxia

This type of pulmonary hypertension is caused by conditions that affect the lungs, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and sleep apnea. It can also be caused by low oxygen levels in the body, known as hypoxia.

Group 4: Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension

This type of pulmonary hypertension is caused by blood clots that block the arteries of the lungs. These blood clots can form as a result of the following:

  • Previous blood clots in the legs or arms (deep vein thrombosis) that have traveled to the lungs
  • Previous pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs)
  • Inactivity or immobility (such as after surgery or a long plane ride)
  • Certain medical conditions, such as cancer or heart failure

Group 5: Pulmonary hypertension with unclear or multifactorial mechanisms

This category includes cases of pulmonary hypertension that cannot be classified into one of the other four categories. It may be caused by a combination of factors and may be difficult to diagnose.

How to manage pulmonary hypertension in hot weather

Hot weather can make your body work harder to cool itself down. This means that your heart rate goes up, and you may breathe faster. This puts extra strain on your heart muscle and can make pulmonary hypertension worse.

If you have pulmonary hypertension, you should avoid strenuous exercise when it’s hot and humid outside.

If possible, stay indoors and keep cool in air conditioning when temperatures are high.

Here are some tips for managing pulmonary hypertension in hot weather:

  • Stay hydrated. Balance your fluid intake and drink enough throughout the day to help keep your body cool and hydrated.
  • Avoid strenuous activity, especially during the hottest parts of the day. If you must engage in physical activity, do so in a cool, well-ventilated area and take frequent breaks to rest.
  • Wear loose, lightweight clothing made of natural fibers to help keep your body cool. Avoid wearing tight or heavy clothing, as it can trap heat and make you feel warmer.
A fan to help keep normal pulmonary artery pressure in hot weather
  • Use air conditioning or fans to keep the air cool and circulate it around your home or workplace. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, try opening windows and using fans to create a cross-breeze.
  • Take a cool bath or shower. It can help lower your body temperature and make you feel more comfortable.
  • Use ice packs or cold compresses on your pulse points, such as your wrists, neck, and ankles, to help lower your body temperature.
  • Monitor your symptoms. If you feel short of breath or experience chest pain or discomfort, stop what you’re doing and rest in a cool, well-ventilated area.

Medications for pulmonary hypertension

Several medications are used to treat pulmonary hypertension. These medications have different actions, so your doctor may recommend one or more. Once on medications, pulmonary hypertension life expectancy may increase by about five years.

Some common pulmonary hypertension medications include:

  • Vasodilators: These medications relax and widen the blood vessels in the lungs, which can help lower blood pressure and improve symptoms.
  • Anticoagulants: They help prevent blood clots from forming, which can be important in chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension cases.
  • Guanylate cyclase stimulators: They can increase the amount of nitric oxide in your body. The most commonly used medication in this class is riociguat. This drug helps open blood vessels and improve blood flow to the lungs.
  • High-dose calcium channel blockers: These include amlodipine and diltiazem. These drugs slow down your heart rate and relax blood vessels, so less work is required to pump blood through them.
  • Diuretics: Also known as water pills, they help remove excess fluid from your body. For example, if you have high blood pressure or fluid in your lungs from heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diuretics can help relieve some of your symptoms by lowering the amount of fluid in your body.

Wrapping up

There is a definite link between pulmonary hypertension and hot weather, and it is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. If you have symptoms of pulmonary hypertension, it’s important to speak with your doctor immediately so they can help diagnose and classify your symptoms and provide adequate treatment options. Most pulmonary hypertension patients do not feel ill, even when experiencing symptoms. That is why you should take the necessary precautions to protect yourself in hot weather.

March 10, 2023