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What are the psychological effects of  Pulmonary hypertension?

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a disease unknown to the vast majority of the population and considered rare due to its low prevalence. Specifically, it is estimated that pulmonary arterial hypertension (pathology included in one of the PH groups) affects 1.5 people per 100,000 inhabitants per year. At the same time, its incidence is 0.3 new cases diagnosed annually for every 100,000

Specifically, PH” is a rare, severe and chronic disease based on the alteration of the pulmonary blood vessels (they are the ones in charge of transporting the blood from the heart to the lungs) leading to increased pressure in the lung circulation .”  

Despite its low prevalence, it is a condition with high mortality, “so its early diagnosis is very important. The dissemination and recognition of the disease as a serious health problem is key. However, the invisibility of the pathology, which is still surrounded by many unknowns, affects scientific progress and the patients who suffer from it psychologically. 

“Pulmonary hypertension is a disease that directly affects the quality of life of the person who suffers from it on a psychological, family, social, work or school, economic level. The disease leads to dealing with invisible symptoms that reduce the capacities they had before and no longer have (or are limited). 

From the entity, they comment that patients also have to face a series of side effects that can be even more limiting than the disease itself. This is reflected in how a person with PH relates to himself and his environment (depending on the degree of the condition). 

“Sometimes, social circles are reduced, and there is a tendency to isolation, the same activities are not carried out (or with the same intensity), work or academic performance can be affected by medical appointments or hospitalisations, and, in general, the activities of daily living are affected. 

Likewise, the National Association of Pulmonary Hypertension (ANHP) point out that a large percentage of people with this pathology need to reduce their working day or process an incapacity for work due to the limitations of the disease. In addition, the organisation recalls that it must be taken into account that PH not only interferes with the patient’s life but also with the rest of the family and, more specifically, that of the caregiver.  

The stages of grief in a person with pulmonary hypertension

A person who is diagnosed with a chronic, progressive, degenerative and incurable pathology, such as PH, begins to have a series of limitations that make it impossible for him to relate to himself and the world in the same way as he did before. . Thus, the patient faces a grieving process that involves:

  • A tough first phase due to ignorance and little information about the disease.
  • Facing invisible symptoms and, therefore, being misunderstood by other people.
  • Having to live with a series of side effects that, at times, can be even more limiting than the HP itself.
  • Being in an emotional state prevents the patient from living in the present and, on the contrary, is more connected to the past and the future (“what I am no longer and what I fear I will not be”).
  • Adapt to an environment that facilitates and improves the quality of the affected person. Living with uncertainty means dealing with moments of anxiety and working hard to accept the situation to generate resources to face it. 

Keys to preventing hypertension and atrial fibrillation

On the other hand, it must be considered that hypertension and atrial fibrillation share risk factors. These are the fundamental guidelines to tackle both problems:

  • Adequate nutrition, if possible, based on the Mediterranean diet.
  • Avoid obesity.
  • Perform the daily physical exercise for at least 30 minutes.
  • No smoking.

The strict control of hypertension (tension levels above 140/90 mmHg maintained over time) with the most appropriate treatment prescribed by health personnel.

There are effective pharmacological therapies against atrial fibrillation and its complications, such as antiarrhythmics and anticoagulants. There are also interventional ablation treatments, which are based on destroying the heart tissue to alter the faulty electrical signals that cause the arrhythmia.

Scientist insists on the need to promote “prevention so as not to suffer from atrial fibrillation”. However, he considers it equally important to continue with preventive measures once the disease has appeared because “they prevent the arrhythmia from giving rise to complications such as heart failure, stroke or other cardiovascular problems.”

Warning signs of atrial fibrillation

The most characteristic warning sign of atrial fibrillation is palpitations in the chest. The cardiologist specifies that you should go to the doctor when these occur for a long time and at rest. 

Other symptoms of this type of arrhythmia can include dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest pain. “In the face of these symptoms, you should always consult. 

The applications that measure the heart rate warn that these are not diagnostic devices. Still, they can serve to alert the need to consult a doctor when they repeatedly provide data that point to the existence of an irregular heart rhythm.