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BRAIN ATTACK:

Breathlessness: Heart related or lungs related?

By Dr. Naveen Bhamri in Cardiac Sciences

Mar 23 , 2023 | 2 min read

Chest pain is commonly understood as the only sign of a heart attack. However, it is far from being the only sign. Shortness of breath- wherein you can feel that you are exerting too much to breathe, you face a hunger for air and feel suffocated is a big one you should pay attention to.

Breathlessness is a major indicator of heart disease as well as lung disease. Both heart and lungs are responsible for carrying oxygenated blood across the body and also help remove carbon dioxide from the system. Therefore, any impairment in their function impairs our ability to breathe well.

If you have been exercising for a while and your body is used to this intensity, feeling breathlessness can be a cause of concern. However, if you are exercising after a long time and suddenly start feeling short of breath, it is completely alright as your body is not used to any kind of exercise and is trying to pace up.

When is shortness of breath heart-related?

Shortness of breath due to cardiovascular risk can appear gradually or over time. There are a few signs that will indicate if it is happening due to a heart condition:

  1. If there is swelling in your legs and you feel more breathless while lying down, it is a potential sign of heart failure.

  2. If breathlessness is also associated with chest pain, tightness or pressure in the chest, jaw and back pain, it should be evaluated immediately by a cardiologist.

  3. Notice the time when you feel short of breath; is it when you are exerting yourself beyond every day, or you are feeling short of breath without any change in activity and doing almost nothing? If it is the second case, you may be at risk of heart disease.

  4. Understand your risk factors like obesity, smoking, age, alcohol intake, and family history. If you have any of these, shortness of breath should be evaluated by a cardiologist as the risk factors increase the risk of it happening.

When is shortness of breath lung related?

Sudden breathlessness could be an asthma attack. This means your airways have narrowed, and you'll produce more phlegm (sticky mucus), which causes you to wheeze and cough. You'll feel breathless because it's difficult to move air in and out of your airways.

  • Pneumonia also causes shortness of breath. Antibiotics can help heal the infection.

COPD patients are likely to feel breathless. COPD causes obstruction in the lungs and makes it hard for patients to breathe. Cough, wheezing and mucus are associated with breathlessness.