Shortness of breath due to cardiac issues

Shortness of breath may not seem like it is because of your heart, after all people breathe with their lungs, but it can be a warming sign of serious cardiac issues.  Breathlessness during activity and discomfort with breathing occurs when the heart is not pumping adequately, or when the pressures in the vessels that go from the heart to the lungs are abnormally high.

In people with sedentary lifestyles with no cardiovascular disease this is called ”Deconditioning”. In deconditioning the individuals workload exceeds what the heart can comfortably handle and produces discomfort when performing vigorous physical activity. By becoming physically active and through exercise an individual can increase their cardiac fitness and therefore experience less discomfort for a given workload. Many people with chronic disease become sedentary and decrease their cardiac fitness, increasing their risk of experiencing shortness of breath and can become severely limited in their ability to participate in normal activities of everyday living.

Shortness of breath can be a symptom of heart failure. In heart failure the muscle of the heart cannot either adequately fill or eject blood . When heart failure causes an increase in the vessels that feed the lungs from the heart, fluid from the blood gets pushed into lungs due to pressure and osmotic forces. This fluid stimulates special nerve receptors in the lungs called J-receptors which produce the sensation of being short of breath. There may also a shunting effect in the lungs that produces hypoxemia (low oxygen concentration in the blood) which may produce the sensation of shortness of breath or discomfort with breathing.  Heart failure causes include: valvular disease, ventricular systolic dysfunction, and ventricular diastolic dysfunction. Cardiac tamponade may also lead to shortness of breath by increasing pulmonary vascular pressures.

Some conditions may lead to heart failure. These include: coronary artery disease, past heart attack, abnormal heart valves, high blood pressure, heart muscle disease, congenital heart defects, severe lung disease, diabetes and sleep apnea. Heart failure can be managed with medications and lifestyle changes. In severe cases surgery may be used to treat. If you or someone has a condition that puts them at increased risk for developing heart failure the best treatment is prevention through managing the condition and having a healthy lifestyle.



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