What's the typical life expectancy for someone diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension last year. He hasn't quit smoking or lost any weight. He is still active when he takes his meds regularly. He is 47 and I am angry that he may not see 50 because he won't do what his doctor has said to do. What's the typical pulmonary hypertension life expectancy?

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

The life expectancy for someone with (secondary) pulmonary hypertension is favorable if they get the proper treatment.  Pulmonary hypertension develops because a person has some underlying medical problem that somehow effected the blood vessels in the lungs, causing the blood pressure in those vessels to rise.  Many lung and heart conditions can lead to this, as can smoking.  Since your husband is still smoking and not following the advice of his doctor, you realize he is not helping his condition.   I understand that you are angry and frustrated that he doesn't want to take care of himself.  My advice:

  • Don't nag him.  It will not make him want to listen to you.  It will shut him down more.
  • Really listen to him.  Has he ever said why he cannot stop smoking?  Has he said the meds make him feel bad or have side effects he doesn't like?  Has he discussed any of these problems with his doctor? 
  • Get help for yourself.  You are angry because you think he doesn't care about you enough to take care of himself.  Perhaps it would help you to talk with a counselor or join a support group.  You need to deal with your feelings, or you may end up getting ill yourself!

In all my experience as a nurse, one thing I do know is that you cannot make anyone do something that they do not want to do themselves.  I know that it is hard, and understand that I know how frustrating this must be for you.  I don' think your husband even realizes that his is hurting you.  I believe he is trying to deal with his illness in his own way, and really doesn't know what to do.  So, his defense mechanism is to not do anything at all.

I would also recommend contacting his physician's office to see if they have any further advice on how to deal with this.  They may even be able to direct you to a support group in your area that might help you.  I wish you luck!