Shortness of breath could signal serious disease

Chronic shortness of breath could be a sign of heart failure or COPD.

By Amy Wallace

GOTHENBURG, Sweden, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- A new study is examining the link between chronic shortness of breath and the incidence of heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, to aid in early intervention.

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden, studied the relationship between chronic breathlessness, occurring for six weeks or more, and more serious health issues like heart failure or COPD.


"The fact that people do not seek medical advice for their breathlessness is often due to people associating their symptoms with the natural process of aging," Nasser Ahmadi, a researcher at the Salgrenska Academy and specialist in cardiology and general medicine at Capio Medical Center in Orust, Sweden, said in a press release. "But if you notice that you experience increased shortness of breath during exertion, you should seek medical attention."

Ahmadi researched breathlessness in several studies with different designs and populations.

"The patients who sought care for chronic breathlessness appeared to have a significantly impaired quality of life than the general population," Ahmadi said. "They often had major problems completing everyday tasks. They suffered from different underlying diseases like a potential heart failure or a hidden obstructive lung disease that was developing."


Ahmadi said that most of the previous studies on shortness of breath were conducted in hospital settings not primary care settings.

"My point is that the faster we identify these patients, the better prognoses we will have and the lighter the load on the healthcare system later on," Ahmadi said. "Shortness of breath is often a sign of heart or lung disease because these two organs are most closely involved in the respiratory system."

Ahmadi wants shortness of breath to be treated as an equally important symptom of potential heart disease as high blood pressure.

"Very often, the patient recognizes that something is not right," Ahmadi said. "People can compare their health with how it was previously, after all, one is his best health reference. What was I like a year ago? Was I able to do just as much or have things become considerably worse? If it is the latter, people should seek medical attention, even if you are over the age of 65 or 70."

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