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Shortness of Breath: Key Info for Patients With Heart History

Author: Sina Nafisi, M.D., FACC

All of the sudden… it hits you: a feel of suffocation, gasping for breath, unable to pull enough air down into your lungs. You aren’t exercising; there are no extreme temperatures; and while you may not be in the best shape of your life, you’re in reasonably good health.

So, why the sudden shortness of breath? What triggers are going off in your body to cause this alarming and unexpected symptom?

Shortness of breath is a symptom that can be caused by many conditions. If you experience shortness of breath, it’s important that you seek follow-up care with your primary care provider. If shortness of breath symptoms do not resolve quickly, then you should have someone take you to an urgent care facility.

Potential Causes of Shortness of Breath

Oftentimes, shortness of breath is caused by problems related to the heart or lungs. At Phoenix Heart Center, providers often evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients who have experienced such an episode. Potential cardiovascular causes of shortness of breath may include:

  • Arrhythmia. A cardiac arrhythmia is an irregular or abnormal heartbeat, which sometimes causes shortness of breath. Learn more about this condition.
  • Cardiomyopathy. This disease of the heart muscle affects approximately half a million Americans. It’s a leading cause of heart failure. Shortness of breath is one of cardiomyopathy’s symptoms. Learn more about this condition.
  • Heart Attack. A heart attack may occur when the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough oxygenated blood. Shortness of breath is one of the four major warning signs. Learn about the warning signs of a heart attack.
  • Heart Failure. The CDC estimates 5.1 million individuals in the U.S. have heart failure, a condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently. Learn more about this condition.
  • Pericarditis. This condition occurs when the pericardium, a membrane surrounding the heart, swells and becomes inflamed. In addition to shortness of breath, individuals may experience sharp chest pain.
  • Pulmonary Embolism. A pulmonary embolism is a blockage in an artery that supplies blood to the lungs. The blockage is typically caused by a blood clot. (Patients with deep vein thrombosis should be aware of this risk.) When the clot breaks free, it may block a pulmonary artery, causing shortness of breath.

Shortness of Breath? Schedule An Appointment

If you have experienced shortness of breath, see your primary care provider for follow-up care. If your provider believes the issue may be heart-related, consider scheduling an appointment with a cardiologist in Phoenix or Tempe by contacting Phoenix Heart Center.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.



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