Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a condition in which the lung’s blood vessels are narrowed, destroyed, and blocked. This slows down the blood flow and increases the blood pressure in the lungs’ arteries. To keep up with this, the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the lungs, resulting in the weakening and failure of heart muscles. This article discusses the risk factors for PAH, which makes one more susceptible to the condition.

1. Familial link
If two or more members in one’s family have had PAH or a gene (BMPR2) associated with PAH, their likelihood of getting the disease is high. In such cases, it is best to avail of genetic counseling to get help on these issues. However, it is crucial to understand that not everyone who has the gene will develop the disease. Only 20 percent of people with a bad gene get this disease. It is known as incomplete penetrance.

2. Obesity
Obesity is not a PAH risk factor by itself. However, when one’s weight combines with sleep apnea, a condition wherein the oxygen levels drip while sleeping, one may get the disease. Moreover, extra weight aggravates the lungs’ pressure, which makes one susceptible to the disease.

3. Sex
Heritable and idiopathic PAH are at least two and a half times more prevalent in women than men. Women at a childbearing age are more likely to develop these kinds of PAH.

4. Pregnancy
Another risk factor for PAH is pregnancy. Further, women who have had PAH and get pregnant have an aggravated risk of death.

5. Higher altitude
It is a proven fact that people who live at a higher altitude are at a greater risk of developing the condition. This is predominantly because the lack of sufficient oxygen in the environment increases the pressure on the lungs. More so, for someone with PAH or PH, the symptoms are only aggravated if they live in an area of high altitude.

6. Other medical conditions
Certain medical conditions, such as liver and lung diseases, congenital heart diseases, blood clotting diseases, and connective tissue disorders, such as lupus and scleroderma, aggravate one’s risk of developing PAH.

7. Illicit drugs and toxins
Cocaine and methamphetamines have been a common risk factor for PAH. Some diet pills, such as fen-phen, also increase one’s risk of developing the condition. Approximately 20 percent of people who die of cocaine consumption experience lung damage because of PH.

8. Age

Although PAH can develop at any age, it is more common in people between 20 and 60.