Could my brain fog and cognitive decline be linked to my PH?

Connections between physical and mental health deserve our attention

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

Share this article:

Share article via email
Banner image for

“How are your focus and concentration? Do you need help to stay engaged while reading, writing your columns, or watching movies?”

These were the questions my psychiatrist posed to me during our recent telehealth session. Surprisingly, she linked my attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder to long-term COVID-19. But she reminded me that people with chronic conditions like pulmonary hypertension (PH), which I have, often experience difficulties with concentration.

Managing chronic pain and fatigue, as I’m doing, further complicates matters. With these challenges, I’ve had to take steps to maintain my focus and productivity. My doctor and I discussed improving my diet, setting achievable goals, exercising regularly (even if it’s a short walk with my oxygen), and taking regular breaks throughout the day. She also suggested I use online programs, tools, and apps, such as Calm, to help my physical and mental well-being.

I’ve already been using online resources, including Google documents, to keep track of medications and develop organizational tools to keep me on task during the day. As someone living with PH, I’m encouraged by how technology, primarily MyChart, has helped me stay connected with my healthcare team and manage my condition better.

All of this is part of my efforts to alleviate my brain fog and cognitive decline.

Recommended Reading
Banner for Karen Schultz's column

The management of pulmonary hypertension is a long road

The effects of adjusting medications

My current treatments have worked relatively well amid these ongoing battles with memory loss and concentration. However, my psychiatrist adjusted my Cymbalta (duloxetine) prescription after a year on the same dosage.

Managing our physical and mental health can be an intricate dance. Sometimes they may seem at odds, with side effects piling up and every adjustment becoming an adventure. And it doesn’t end there. When physical storms brew, anxiety can join the party, fueling the fire. We must never neglect our psychological or physical well-being — they’re equally important.

Who’s ready to slow down?

Of course, this vigilance can be draining and frustrating, particularly during seasons when I have numerous appointments to juggle. I’ve recently been in such a season, and I long for a respite.

Have you experienced similar seasons recently? Our rest becomes compromised when we’re stressed about upcoming medical appointments or other life events. Not only does this affect our physical well-being, but it also takes a toll on our mental health.

Could it be another manifestation of PH?

Recently, I stumbled upon the intriguing article “Cognitive deficits seen in PAH may be due to blood vessel remodeling,” on Pulmonary Hypertension News. It discusses cognitive impairments observed in about a quarter of the PH patients in a small study. This information has set my mind spinning like a hamster on a wheel.

Doesn’t that just make sense? PH is a chronic and progressive disease linked to high blood pressure in our precious vessels. This study suggests that changes in the blood vessels of our lungs and brain might be behind the cognitive troubles that we patients face. I’ve always connected my memory lapses and brain haze to lower oxygen levels.

Let’s venture deeper into these extraordinary connections together, shall we? As we dive deeper into the complexities of PH, we’ll gain invaluable insights that’ll serve us well in the long run. The more we discover, the stronger we’ll become. Reading informative articles to better understand a wide range of PH symptoms can help us regain some control of our lives.

This study, albeit small, poses some thought-provoking questions regarding the impact of PH on our cognitive abilities. For instance, could those structural lung vessel changes contribute to cerebrovascular changes that cause our mental struggles, like brain fog? We eagerly await further research to shed light on these mysteries. With more studies, we’ll better understand how PH affects our cognition and be able to take steps to better manage it.

Do you struggle with brain fog or cognitive decline? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Rebecca Comer avatar

Rebecca Comer

I, too, have wondered if my brain fog and inability to focus like I used to is due to long COVID or hypoxemia due to my PH or OSA? I have just been started on 2 L/min with my APAP machine at night only. I certainly hope this will help me with my cognitive decline as one of my older sisters has Alzheimer's disease. I had COVID in October 2021 and in early 2022 I was diagnosed with secondary PH due to OSA but I also have CAD as well. I do empathize with any of our PHers that have the same issues with mental decline.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hey there, Rebecca! I'm really sorry to hear about the cognitive issues you're facing. It's truly frustrating and downright scary, isn't it? With your PH, long-COVID, and OSA, finding the root cause can be quite the challenge. But honestly, I think it's a combination of everything.

By the way, I've also had COVID twice myself. Hopefully, your CPAP machine brings you some relief. My husband recently got his, and let me tell you, he sleeps so much better now!

I just wanted to extend my heartfelt gratitude for taking the time to read my column. It means the world to me that you not only read it but also shared your thoughts. Thank you!

Sending you big hugs and keeping you in my thoughts. <3

grace campbell avatar

grace campbell

Hi, I live in Australia, I feel that doctors don't seem to know about PH here ,as they should. I tell them about my declining memory and not wanting to do all the things I used to love, reading, hobbies and voluntary work. They look at me blankly and I know they have no idea what I am talking about. I feel I live in a bubble sometimes and nothing touches me. People look at me and I look really healthy despite PH and other chronic illnesses. I blamed all of in on my lack of oxygen not getting to my brain. They also go on about my weight which I try my best to lose but it does not budge much and I find I can't walk very far without a trolley or walker.I gave up work at 70 because I no longer could talk to people on the phone because of coughing so much and feeling tired by the afternoon. I needed a sick to walk. I was very late in being diagnosed with PH and Arterial Fibrilation.I have not really anyone to talk to about all of this as my daughter gets anxious about losing me. I live by myself.
Yes, remembering small things like paying bills, appointments etc. get me annoyed, but thank goodness we have diaries to jot them down. Not really tech. savvy. I used to have a great memory and never needed one.
When I read your stories it always brings me to realising there are others worse than myself.
I wish all that have PH/PAH all the best on their journey

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hey Grace! It sounds like you're navigating the challenges of managing your PH all by yourself. My heart truly goes out to you because I understand how isolating it can be. By the way, how old is your daughter? Is she your only little munchkin? Does she live close by? Also, I'm curious, when were you diagnosed?

In case you haven't joined us yet, we'd absolutely love to have you be a part of the conversation in the PH News forums. As one of the co-moderators, I can assure you that it's a supportive and encouraging community. Just click on the link below to sign up and dive right in!

PH News forums

Having a diary and notes as reminders is absolutely crucial. Personally, I rely on brightly colored Post-it notes scattered everywhere – it's kind of my thing! But you know what's amazing? When I forget to pay bills, my hubby swoops in to the rescue. Thank goodness for that! It's downright scary when our thoughts start to slip away. Reminds me of my late grandmother who battled dementia – that's a real concern for me.

But hey, let me tell you, you are not alone in this journey. I would absolutely love to connect with you in the forums and figure out how we can provide the best support. I'm humbled that you took the tie to read my column, and I'm truly honored that you decided to share your thoughts.

Take good care, my lovely PHriend.

Crissy avatar


Very interesting, Jen!

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Thanks Crissy, I appreciate you taking the time to read my column. It's humbling to know that others can benefit from my experiences.

Ruby Midkiff avatar

Ruby Midkiff

Please email me a copy of this article soon. I’d like to share with my hubby and docs. Food for thought, good article as usual,Jen. It’s late for me andI hope to read this again. Great content! Thank you, Jen!

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hey Ruby Nan,

I'm so glad you liked my column! I'll email you the link shortly so you can share it with your hubby and doctor.

Thanks for taking the time to read it and for sharing your thoughts. Let me know what your hubby and doctor think, okay?

Take care, my dear PHriend.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.

A Conversation With Rare Disease Advocates