Studies show exercise is safe, improves quality of life for pulmonary hypertension patients

Dr. Jarett Berry
Dr. Jarett Berry

DALLAS – September 2, 2015 – Exercise training for patients with pulmonary hypertension was shown to be safe and to improve quality of life, according to an analysis by UT Southwestern Medical Center cardiologists of studies involving more than 400 participants.

Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects the lungs and heart, making it hard to breathe, or making one weary or dizzy. The prevalence of pulmonary hypertension is estimated to be 10 to15 cases per million with a mortality rate of 15 percent annually. Left untreated, it can lead to heart failure. Researchers found that exercise training can reduce pressure in the arteries and increase exercise tolerance, all without compromising safety.

“Clinicians have traditionally been skeptical about prescribing exercise for patients with chronic pulmonary hypertension due to concerns that training might put further strain on the heart,” said senior author Dr. Jarett Berry, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences, and Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care at UT Southwestern. “Our analysis found those concerns may be misplaced. More importantly, exercise had a positive effect on several measures of heart function as well as overall quality of life.”

The new findings do not mean those with pulmonary hypertension should jump on a bike, start jogging, or launch into some other exercise regimen without first consulting their physician, said Dr. Berry. Most of the studies the team examined had supervised exercise training and involved lower levels of exercise intensity than traditionally prescribed for heart failure patients.

“It is important for patients with pulmonary hypertension to consult their doctor before starting any exercise regimen, particularly for pulmonary hypertension patients,” said Dr. Ambarish Pandey, a cardiology fellow at UT Southwestern Medical Center and first author on the paper.

The meta-analysis appears in Circulation: Heart Failure.

UT Southwestern’s Pulmonary Hypertension Program is one of the first in the country and the only one in Texas to complete the Pulmonary Hypertension Association’s new accreditation program for Pulmonary Hypertension Care Centers. The Pulmonary Hypertension Program, which ranks among the top 10 largest pulmonary hypertension centers in the country, played a key role in the development of a number of new medications.

Other UT Southwestern researchers involved in the new research included cardiology Dr. Sonia Garg; Dr. Dharam Kumbhani, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine; and Dr. Kelly Chin, Director of UT Southwestern’s Pulmonary Hypertension Program and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine; and researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Department of Medicine and the University of Minnesota School of Medicine.

Funding for this study included the Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care endowment and grants from the American Heart Association.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty includes many distinguished members, including six who have been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1985. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to about 92,000 hospitalized patients and oversee approximately 2.1 million outpatient visits a year.


Media Contact: Cathy Frisinger

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