The Link Between Heart Problems and Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is a symptom with many potential causes, so an accurate diagnosis is key to effective treatment. Heart and lung problems are often the first areas to evaluate when investigating shortness of breath. Many heart issues result in shortness of breath, which may come on suddenly or develop gradually over time.

There are also times when breathlessness requires immediate attention. When and how your shortness of breath occurs can be a clue as to the potential cause. One thing is certain: You should always see a health care provider for a thorough evaluation if you experience frequent or lasting shortness of breath that is otherwise unexplained.

At CA Heart and Vein Specialists in Huntington Beach, California, experienced cardiovascular physician Dr. Majed Chane offers comprehensive evaluation to get to the root of your breathlessness. If it’s heart-related, we offer effective treatment options to relieve your symptoms and keep your heart and circulatory system as healthy as possible. 

Here, we address the link between heart trouble and shortness of breath. It’s important to know about the types of heart problems that can lead to shortness of breath and when breathlessness requires immediate medical attention.

Heart function and shortness of breath

Through a vast network of blood vessels, your heart carries oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the organs and tissues throughout your body. The right side of your heart receives deoxygenated blood, where it picks up oxygen and discharges carbon dioxide. The left side of the heart receives oxygen-dense blood and delivers it to the body.

Blood flows through your heart in a series of steps that involve four separate chambers. The heart’s electrical system controls the timing of your heartbeat and, when working efficiently, the heart pumps a continuous supply of blood to your brain and vital organs.

The shortness of breath linked to heart problems is due to a decreased ability of your heart chambers to fill with blood and then empty. This causes elevated pressure in the blood vessels around your lungs. 

Shortness of breath as a warning sign of heart trouble

Because breathlessness can signal heart trouble. you should never ignore it. Here are some of the most common cardiac causes of shortness of breath. 

Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when the heart’s specialized arteries become narrowed or blocked. Plaque buildup is the primary cause. Mild narrowing may cause no symptoms, but significant narrowing that reduces blood flow often causes symptoms such as shortness of breath. This may be especially noticeable during physical activity.

Congestive heart failure

In patients with congestive heart failure, blood backs up in blood vessels that return blood from lungs to the heart. This happens because the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently. You may experience shortness of breath during physical activity or at rest.

Pericarditis

Pericarditis is an inflammation of the thin sac that surrounds your heart, called the pericardium. It lubricates the heart and helps protect against infection. The inflammation often develops suddenly and may last several months. Shortness of breath and dry cough are common symptoms.

Cardiomyopathy

There are several types of cardiomyopathy. In most cases, this condition causes the heart to become enlarged, thick, or stiff. This causes your heart to weaken, preventing it from pumping efficiently and resulting in symptoms such as shortness of breath.

When to seek medical attention for shortness of breath

In certain cases, it’s important to seek medical attention for shortness of breath. Warning signs that require immediate treatment include breathlessness that is accompanied by:

Left untreated, heart problems can cause serious health complications. Any unexplained episodes of shortness of breath warrant evaluation.

The team at CA Heart and Vein Specialists is dedicated to keeping your heart as healthy as possible and addressing all of your cardiovascular needs. For a heart health checkup, call 657-206-8491 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chane, or request a booking online.

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