Chronic Pulmonary Heart Disease: Care Instructions

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Cross section of heart showing the ventricles and atria

Your Care Instructions

Your heart has four chambers. The lower right chamber, called the right ventricle, pumps blood to the lungs.

Chronic pulmonary heart disease happens when the right ventricle has to work too hard to pump blood to lungs that have been damaged. The lungs may have been damaged by a condition like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), blood clots in the lung, or sleep apnea. As time goes by, the right ventricle will get weaker and begin to fail.

Over time, chronic pulmonary heart disease can cause fluid to build up in your body. This buildup can cause fatigue, swelling in the legs and body, and other problems. The damage to your lungs may cause shortness of breath.

You can take steps to feel better and live longer with this disease. These steps include taking medicines regularly, getting oxygen therapy if your doctor recommends it, and making lifestyle changes.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?


  • Your doctor may prescribe oxygen therapy to reduce your heart's workload and help you breathe easier.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Talk to your doctor before you take any vitamins, over-the-counter medicine, or natural health products. Don't take ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) without talking to your doctor first. They could make your heart problem worse.


  • Weigh yourself without clothing at the same time each day. A sudden weight gain may mean that your heart problem is getting worse.

Activity level

  • If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 2½ hours a week.
  • Watch for signs that your heart is working too hard when you exercise. You are pushing yourself too hard if you cannot talk while you are exercising. If you become short of breath or dizzy or have chest pain, stop, sit down, and rest.

Lifestyle changes

  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make heart disease worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good. Quitting smoking may be the most important step you can take to protect your heart.
  • Limit alcohol. Talk with your doctor about how much, if any, is safe for you. Too much alcohol can cause health problems.
  • Avoid colds and flu. Get a pneumococcal vaccine shot. If you have had one before, ask your doctor if you need a second dose. Get a flu vaccine every fall. If you must be around people with colds or flu, wash your hands often.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have symptoms of sudden heart failure. These may include:
    • Severe trouble breathing.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    • Coughing up pink, foamy mucus.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse trouble breathing.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have sudden weight gain, such as 1 to 1.3 kilograms in a day or 2 kilograms in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have new or worse swelling in your belly, legs, ankles, or feet.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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