Pulmonary arterial hypertension – Foods that help manage the condition
Pulmonary arterial hypertension – Foods that help manage the condition

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) occurs when there is elevated pressure in the blood vessels leading from the heart to the lungs. It is a rare, critical disease that causes pulmonary arteries to become narrow and stiff. PAH can lead to heart enlargement and weakening, ultimately causing heart failure or other life-threatening consequences. You can manage the condition via remedies and food habits. Here are tips on what to eat and remedies usually prescribed for PAH.

Foods to have for pulmonary arterial hypertension

Garlic and bell pepper
Since PAH patients have weak hearts, eating excessive salt or sodium content can worsen the problem. Replace salt seasoning with garlic to add flavor to your dish. According to one study conducted on rats with PAH, the allicin compound found in garlic widens blood vessels and controls blood pressure. You can also try adding bell peppers, peppercorns, fresh herbs, or lemon juice to your meals. An average citizen consumes 2,400 mg of sodium per day. PAH patients should at least aim for less than 2,000 mg. If you consume a lot of pre-packaged foods, make sure to read the label for sodium content. There are a lot of hidden sources of sodium found in mouthwashes, toothpaste, certain chewable antacid tablets, and laxatives too. Avoid sauerkraut, pickles, pickled herring, ketchup, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

PAH patients need to have a balance of iron and vitamin K. Many dark green vegetables are great sources of iron; however, they also contain a high amount of vitamin K. Foods that have low vitamin K are broccoli, asparagus, avocado, and tuna. If you take blood-thinning supplements, inconsistent levels of vitamin K can adversely affect you. To determine it, ask your doctor or PAH specialist how much vitamin K you need in a day. They may recommend limiting certain foods as a part of your treatment process.

Tomatoes and oranges
Altering your meal plan to consume more iron is great but, to improve its impact, PAH patients must also include foods rich in vitamin C like tomatoes and oranges. Other foods under this category include broccoli, kiwi, pineapple, red and yellow bell peppers, spinach, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. You can add a few slices of mango or papaya to your breakfast palate to maintain your vitamin C levels. Even vitamin D found in fatty fish like salmon, milk, and breakfast cereals improves the symptoms of PAH. If you think that you are not getting enough iron, vitamin C, or D from your food, speak to your healthcare provider or PAH specialist.

Red meat
Foods like lean red meat, legumes, quinoa, shellfish, spinach, and kale are rich in iron and help in increasing the amount of oxygen that reaches the lungs. These iron-rich sources increase the number of red blood cells, thereby regulating the oxygen supply to the lungs. Individuals diagnosed with PAH typically have low iron in their bodies. According to research, iron deficiency triggers or aggravates the severity of this condition. Hence consuming iron-rich foods is important to manage PAH. Other foods rich in iron include tofu, figs, dates, raisins, prunes, eggs, tree nuts, and edible seeds.

Healthy foods like beans, low-fat dairy, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts prevent further heart damage. Avoid packaged or processed foods that can make PAH worse. Include anti-inflammatory foods like blueberries, olive oil, and salmon in your meals. These contain lycopene, antioxidants, and flavonoids that increase the functionality of the blood vessels and improve blood flow.

Limiting water intake can decrease or prevent swelling and fluid buildup. Most patients with PAH are kept on a two-liter (8.6 cups) restriction, but every case is different, so ask your doctor what amount is appropriate for you. Measure the amount of water or fluid you consume daily. Also, count the water your take with tablets. Soups and popsicles are also taken into account since they are all fluids. One of the first signs of fluid buildup is weight gain, so you need to keep a track of it regularly. If you gain 3-5 pounds in a day consult your doctor immediately. An easy way to keep track of water or sodium intake is by maintaining a food journal.

Altering your food regime alone may not be enough to manage PAH. Your doctor may one of the following remedies to slow the progression of the disease.

Other options to help treat pulmonary arterial hypertension

Adempas® (Riociguat)
Adempas assists in improving blood pressure in the lungs by helping the heart pump more blood. It is used to treat chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) in people who cannot be treated with surgery or have a recurrent or or persistent condition. Riociguat may treat certain symptoms of CTEPH and also improve athletic performance. Also used to treat PAH, it is available to women only under a special program. They must register with the program to get access to Adempas. It is crucial to follow your doctor’s instructions for dosage information.

Bosentan® (Tracleer)
Like Adempas, this remedy also controls the blood pressure in the lungs to improve the heart’s pumping. It is used to treat PAH in adults and children who are 3 years or older. PAH patients need to enroll in a special program from a certified pharmacy to understand the risks and benefits associated with Bosentan. It is not for pregnant women. Bosentan is known to decrease sperm count and affect fertility. It can also cause severe liver problems. Your doctor may test your liver before and after taking Bosentan.

Opsumit® (Macitentan)
Macitentan belongs to a class of medications called endothelin receptor antagonists that work by stopping endothelin’s action, a natural substance that causes blood vessels to narrow in PAH patients. It is available at retail pharmacies. Like the above two remedies, you have to register under a special program. Your doctor will explain the risks and the patient must sign an informed consent sheet stating that they understand the information explained. Macitentan will then be mailed to them from a specialty pharmacy that is registered under the program.