Breathlessness, both at rest and upon exertion, is a sign of a medical problems and should always be thoroughly investigated by a doctor in order to identify and diagnose any medical disorder. Shortness of breath could be due to either a heart or a lung problem, and a swift diagnosis is essential.
The most common occurrence of shortness of breath related to the heart is due coronary artery disease, where arteries become blocked with plaque deposits. If an artery becomes completely blocked, this can cause a heart attack. If a heart attack occurs, the part of muscle affected becomes scarred, reducing the effectiveness of the heart which can leave you feeling short of breath.
In some cases, breathlessness can be also be a symptom of heart failure, which covers a number of conditions. Heart failure can be sudden in its onset, known as acute heart failure, or if it is more progressive, it is known as chronic heart failure.
Heart failure is caused by the heart losing its effectiveness as a pump, leading to pressure building up in both the heart and lungs. It is this buildup of pressure that can leave you feeling short of breath. Depending on the extent of the pressure, this discomfort may only be present upon exertion. If the problem is more extensive, you may feel breathless even when at complete rest.
Other causes of breathlessness include;
- Heart valves that are narrow and/or leak
- Genetic heart abnormalities such as cardiomyopathy where the muscle becomes enlarged, thick or rigid
- Acquired heart abnormalities that can occur due to lifestyle, such as abuse of alcohol or drugs. Viral heart infections and treatment with certain drugs, for example, cancer drugs can also cause abnormalities
- Constrictive pericarditis, which is where inflammation of the outer lining of the heart prevents normal function through constriction.
Heart check-ups are imperative to protecting your health by catching any developing heart problems early on before symptoms develop, and most importantly, whilst changes to a person's lifestyle can still make a significant impact.
They can also identify any pre-existing heart disease that may already be present.
Here at Manchester Cardiology Services, we can help identify any potential predispositions you may have to developing heart problems, and give you peace of mind when it comes to your health.