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Every time a healthy heart pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs into the rest of the body, it goes through two phases — a contracting or pumping phase (called systolic function) and a relaxing phase (called diastolic function).
When the muscles of the heart become stiff, they can't relax properly, creating a condition known as diastolic dysfunction. This inflexibility prevents the heart's ventricles from filling completely, causing blood to back up in the organs.
Diastolic dysfunction is a significant cause of pulmonary hypertension (increased blood pressure in the lung).
Aging is the most common cause of this stiffening of the heart. In fact, it's estimated that more than 50% of adults of over the age of 70 have diastolic dysfunction.
Other causes include:
Diastolic heart dysfunction often creates the same array of symptoms that are found in other types of heart failure and cardiopulmonary diseases, including:
It's easy to dismiss these symptoms as part of "normal aging." Talk to your doctor whenever you experience these kinds of symptoms.
An ultrasound of your heart known as an echocardiogram can confirm a diagnosis of diastolic dysfunction.
Our doctors in the UPMC Comprehensive Pulmonary Hypertension Program take a cross-disciplinary approach to care; They work closely with cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, and other experts within the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.
By collaborating with physicians in other areas of specialty, we can properly diagnose diastolic dysfunction as a cause of pulmonary hypertension and find the right treatments to help improve your quality of life and sustain your independent lifestyle.
There is no cure for diastolic heart dysfunction, but the symptoms can be managed.
We work with patients to pursue a full range of treatment options, including: