People of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds are diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH). Even though anyone can be diagnosed with PH, certain risk factors make some people more likely to get the disease:

  • Family history. If two or more members of your family have PAH or if a family member in your lineage is known to have a gene associated with PAH, the risk of getting PAH can be more likely. Genetic counseling is available to discuss these issues. Learn what genetics can teach us about PH

  • Obesity and obstructive sleep apnea. In isolation, obesity is not a risk factor. However, if obesity is combined with obstructive sleep apnea (meaning that oxygen levels fall while a person is sleeping), mild PH may occur.

  • Gender. Idiopathic PAH and heritable PAH (also known as familial PAH) are at least two-and-a-half times more common in women than in men. Females of childbearing age are also more susceptible.

  • Pregnancy. Pregnancy is a possible risk factor suggested by registries and expert opinion. Women who already have PH and become pregnant have a much higher risk of mortality. Read more about pregnancy and PH.

  • Altitude. Living at a high altitude for years can make you more predisposed to PH. When travelling to high altitudes, your PH symptoms can be aggravated by the altitude.

  • Other diseases. Other diseases, including congenital heart disease, lung disease, liver disease and connective tissue disorders like scleroderma and lupus, can lead to the development of pulmonary hypertension. Read more about PH and associated diseases.

  • Drugs and toxins. Certain drugs, such as methamphetamines and the diet drug “fen phen,” are known to cause pulmonary hypertension.


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The information provided on the PHA website is provided for general information only. It is not intended as legal, medical or other professional advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with qualified professionals who are familiar with your individual needs. PHA does not endorse or recommend any commercial products or services.

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The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) awarded PHA the Abbey S. Meyers Leadership Award in 2012 for outstanding service to PHA members in advocacy, education and other key areas.