Members of MyHeartDiseaseTeam often describe shortness of breath (also known as SOB) as one of their most common - and most frustrating - symptoms. “I have shortness of breath,” said one member. “Very annoying. Walking upstairs, going for walks, doing the dishes, anything physical. Has been going on for a very long time.” “I get short of breath if I bend over to take off my shoes and sit back up again,” wrote another member. If you have trouble with shortness of breath, you’re not alone.
Many members on MyHeartDiseaseTeam experience shortness of breath as a direct symptom of heart disease. In heart failure, an advanced form of heart disease, the heart can no longer pump blood effectively to supply the body with enough oxygen. Some MyHeartDiseaseTeam members notice worsening shortness of breath when their doctor measures a lower ejection fraction (the percentage of blood that is pumped out of the heart with each contraction). “Had an angiogram in November and my heart muscle is only operating at 35%,” said one member. “Very good indication why I have shortness of breath.”
Respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are also common in MyHeartDiseaseTeam members. Those who live with both heart disease and a lung condition may be even more likely to experience shortness of breath. “I have COPD and congestive heart failure. And today I feel like someone is sitting on my chest, like it feels thick. Hard to get a clean, easy breath,” described one member.
Some MyHeartDiseaseTeam members associate shortness of breath with certain medications. “Some of the meds that I take list shortness of breath as a side effect. I would rather have that than angina,” commented one member. “Just a part of heart disease.” Beta blockers, a class of drugs commonly prescribed for heart disease, sometimes list shortness of breath as a potential side effect.
Many MyHeartDiseaseTeam members recognize the importance of exercise for improving breathlessness. At the same time, SOB sometimes makes exercise more difficult. One member wrote, “I haven't been able to walk more than 15 minutes without getting extremely breathless for months.”
Several MyHeartDiseaseTeam members describe ways they have found to improve their shortness of breath:
Cardiac rehab: “Rehab will put you on the road to recovery. Keep @ it. 👍”
Slow walking: “Instead of my usual break-neck speed, I walked at a slow, easy pace. I managed 25 minutes!!!!”
Yoga: “I’ve been doing restorative yoga with simple stretching which has been extremely helpful…”
Surgery: “All the shortness of breath is gone after mitral valve replacement and triple bypass done 5/10/17.”
Acupuncture: “Had an acupuncture treatment last Thursday, which kept shortness of breath at bay for about three days.”
On MyHeartDiseaseTeam, the social support network for people living with heart disease, shortness of breath is a frequent topic of conversation.
Here are some conversations about shortness of breath:
Here are some question-and-answer threads about shortness of breath:
How do you cope with shortness of breath? Have you found anything that helps? Share below or post on MyHeartDiseaseTeam.