You run up a few flights of steps and you’re gasping for air when you get to the top. This is a perfectly normal circumstance in which you can experience shortness of breath. But what if you feel this shortness of breath if you just walk from one room to the next? This might indicate a much larger problem with your health.

Shortness of breath is a symptom that’s shared by a wide range of health issues, from asthma to panic attack disorders. As heart health experts, the team here at South Shore Cardiovascular Associates is concerned with cardiovascular-related issues that can lead to shortness of breath, a few of which we review here.

Heart failure

One of the first conditions that we check for when patients come to see us because of ongoing shortness of breath is congestive heart failure.

Heart failure is a progressive condition that affects about 6.5 million adults in the United States. As the name suggests, heart failure is a condition in which your heart isn’t able to pump enough blood to accommodate the needs of your body. 

As a result of heart failure, fluid can build up in your lungs, a condition known as pulmonary edema, which can leave you with moderate-to-severe shortness of breath.


If you have a heart arrhythmia that leads to tachycardia — an increased heart rate — you can experience shortness of breath. For example, if you have the most common arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, you can have episodes of tachycardia that leave you breathless.


Another condition that can lead to shortness of breath and fatigue is cardiomyopathy, which describes a diseased heart muscle that has thickened, stiffened, or enlarged. As a result, your heart is pumping blood inefficiently, which can eventually lead to heart failure.

Inflammation around your heart

Certain infections can lead to inflammation in and around your heart, which can cause shortness of breath. Depending upon which tissues are infected, these conditions are called pericarditis, endocarditis, or myocarditis. In most cases, we can clear up these infections, reduce the inflammation, and help you breathe more easily.

Sudden shortness of breath

Until this point, we’ve discussed progressive heart conditions that lead to shortness of breath over time. We would be remiss if we didn’t discuss sudden onset of shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, which can indicate a very serious cardiac event.

A person suffers a heart attack every 40 seconds in the United States, so it’s very much worth understanding that sudden shortness of breath, accompanied by chest pain, dizziness, and/or nausea, is a symptom you need to address immediately by calling 911.

The above list of potential suspects of shortness of breath is by no means comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of why you shouldn’t ignore this symptom.

If you’re experiencing shortness of breath with little exertion, we urge you to book an appointment online or over the phone with South Shore Cardiovascular Associates today. We have offices in Brandon, Riverview, Tampa, and Sun City Center, Florida.

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