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Nutrition, exercise, and PAH.

Your life changes a lot when you have pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). You have to make lifestyle changes yourself in order to best manage symptoms and stay as healthy as you can. Two important pieces of the healthy lifestyle puzzle are nutrition and exercise. Both can be challenging in PAH, but both can also help you feel better and be able to go about your day a bit easier. You may need to avoid certain foods based on the medication you are taking. Before adjusting your diet or starting an exercise plan, always talk to your doctor.


Eating a healthy diet helps you stay healthy, feel better, keep a healthy weight and keep more lean muscle. This means eating a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. It may also mean limiting how much salt and fluid you take in.

It’s helpful to talk to a dietitian and your PAH doctor to learn what foods are healthy and what should be avoided in your diet. With PAH, there are some unique things to consider.

Iron-rich foods. PAH narrows your arteries. This makes it harder to get oxygen through your lungs and into your body. Foods that are rich in iron can help make more red blood cells, so there are more cells to carry oxygen. Iron-rich foods include:

  • Lean red meat
  • Shellfish
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Legumes
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Quinoa

Vitamin C helps the iron absorb better. So, it may help to have a source of vitamin C at the same time you are eating your iron. Some good sources of vitamin C are:

  • Orange juice
  • Tomatoes
  • Pineapples
  • Kiwis
  • Broccoli
  • Red and yellow peppers

Anti-inflammatory foods may help the blood vessels relax, which may increase blood flow. Foods high in anti-inflammatories include:

  • Blueberries
  • Watermelon
  • Olive oil
  • Salmon
  • Modest amounts of dark chocolate

Heart-healthy foods include low-fat milk or yogurt, colorful fruits and vegetables, beans, whole-grain breads and nuts. These foods are important in people with PAH whose hearts are already working hard.

Limiting salt and fluid is also important. Here are a few hints to help:

  • Learn how much salt is safe for you to have. Learn how to read labels so you can keep track of how much salt you take in. You want to stay under the limit your PAH doctor gave you.
  • Use flavorings such as lemon, peppers, garlic, herbs as substitutes for salt.
  • Avoid processed and packaged foods. They often have a lot of added salt. This includes things like soups, lunch meats and frozen meals. Also avoid salty snacks like chips, pretzels, crackers and salted nuts.
  • Keep track of how much fluid you take in during the day. If your doctor has given you a limit to how much you can drink, be sure not to go over that limit.

Remember that these are general ideas. Everyone is different, and it’s important to talk to your PAH doctor or dietitian to learn if there are any foods that you should not eat or any that you should eat more of.


Physical activity can be a challenge for persons with PAH. Sometimes even light activity can make you tired or short of breath. But, regular exercise can improve your strength and energy. Being active is good for both your body and mind. So do what you can, when you can.

Your doctor may want you go to cardiac or pulmonary rehab. You will learn activities to help you build stamina and breathe easier. You may also exercise on your own, doing things like walking, swimming, yoga or stretching. You may be able to lift light weights. Talk to your PAH doctor about which activities are best for you. Start slow and be patient as you build up strength and energy. Always stop exercising if you start to feel lightheaded or very tired, or if you feel any pressure in your chest.

To help with activity around the house, put things that you use often at about eye level. Bending over too often could trigger PAH symptoms or make your symptoms worse. And don’t try to get everything done at once. Pace yourself. Do things when you have the most energy. Take one step at a time. You may also want to take advantage of things like online shopping and grocery and meal delivery services.

Check in with your PAH doctor routinely. If you need help getting through your day, your doctor can connect you with resources.

Your needs are unique to your lifestyle and condition. It’s important to talk to your PAH doctor about what is healthy and safe for you. Update your doctor on what type of foods you eat, vitamins and supplements you take and what your exercise plan is like.

If you have questions about your condition or medications, call your CVS Specialty PAH care team at 1‑87-PAHCARE-8 (1-877-242-2738), anytime.

This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about your medical condition and prior to starting any new treatment. CVS Specialty assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content.

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