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Chronic Pulmonary Heart Disease: Care Instructions

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 may get weaker and not pump blood as well as normal.

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, making lifestyle changes, and not smoking.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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 advice 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.

Weight and symptoms

  • Weigh yourself without clothing at the same time each day. A sudden weight gain may mean that your heart problem is getting worse.
  • Keep a daily record of your symptoms. This can help you know if your symptoms change or get worse.

Activity level

  • Exercise regularly, but don't exercise too hard.
  • Do not start to exercise until you have talked with your doctor to make an exercise program that is safe for you. Ask your doctor if a cardiac rehab program is right for you.
  • 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 lung disease and 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.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and low-fat or non-fat dairy foods. Limit sodium and sugars.
  • 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 influenza (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 severe trouble breathing.
  • You have a fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice 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 more than 1 kg (2 lb) to 1.3 kg (3 lb) in a day or 2.3 kg (5 lb) 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 advice 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?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.