Getting to the Heart of Breathlessness

June 27, 2016| Health and Wellbeing /

Breathlessness from exertion in exercise is quite normal, until it is not. Many people experience a marked change in their breathing at some stage in their lives. Goodness Me finds out what to look out for and when to seek medical help if you are experiencing breathlessness.

The medical term from breathlessness is dyspnoea. It may involve a feeling of being short of breath or difficulty with breathing. Sometimes people experience acute episodes of breathlessness, while others will notice it creep up over time. It occurs when the body needs more oxygen.

According to Epworth cardiologist Dr Iefan Lim, the best indicator of breathlessness that may require attention is when you have a change in your exercise capacity.

“This might meant that you are exercising as normal, but can’t get your breath back within the usual time or recover as quickly,” Iefan says. 
“People who experience breathlessness may still be fit and then find that their normal exercise routine triggers episodes of breathlessness.

“We also see people who are breathless while at rest, or people finding it hard to get through their regular daily routine without getting breathless.”
He says that the older you are the more likely you are to experience exercise-induced breathlessness.

Some of the associated symptoms that may indicate a problem include swollen ankles, or waking up and gasping for air – known as paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnoea.

Your GP is the best place to start, who may refer you for an Electrocardiogram (ECG) to check for any underlying arrhythmia, an Echocardiogram (Echo) to look for heart valve or muscle dysfunction, or directly to a cardiologist.

You may have a stress Echo – either on a treadmill or a bike – to put your heart through its paces when you are in exercise mode to see if there is any change in heart function after exercise. Lung function tests are also commonly ordered for patients experiencing breathlessness.

Iefan says the kinds of underlying problems leading to breathlessness include coronary disease, heart failure, valve problems or lung disease.

Treatments can include medications such as ace inhibitors, beta blockers or diuretics, lifestyle changes, or angioplasty or bypass surgery in the case of any coronary disease or valve intervention if there are valve problems.
— Dr Iefan Lim, Cardiologist, Epworth HealthCare

“Cardiologists often work closely with respiratory physicians where patients are smokers or have exposure to smoke, or have sleep apnoea or signs of lung disease.”

Some of the preventive measures people can take include exercise, weight management and smoking cessation.
“Where there is no sign of any underlying heart issue, we encourage people to push through the initial barrier where they experience breathlessness to increase their exercise tolerance,” he says. 

If you have any concerns around your health, and particularly your heart - raise these with your GP.
If you suspect you're having a cardiac event, call 000 and visit your nearest Emergency Department.



Epworth

Join the conversation on The Village



November 14, 2018| Health and Wellbeing/

What to expect when you visit the Emergency Department

The emergency department assesses & treats people with serious injuries as well as those in need of emergency treatment.

November 14, 2018| Healthcare News/

Imaging Safety

Getting an x-ray is not the frightening concept it once might have been. We know so much about all types of scans and the potential hazards and how to avoid them, and technology is rapidly advancing. Some hospitals even boast an EOS now, which allows them to complete scans with 6-9 times less radiation than typical x-rays.

November 13, 2018| Our Community/

Get in Touch with Nature Without Leaving the City

It’s rarely contested that being around nature has benefits for your health. It ensures you’re spending more time outdoors, gives you a sense of connectedness with the world, and has been found to lower stress and reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. The best news is that even in the city there are many places to get in touch with nature. Here are five of them:

November 13, 2018| Our Community/

Camino de Compostela Fundraiser

Twenty-five weary participants have just returned home after completing the final section of the Spanish Camino de Compostela.

Walking 115km over six days they were blessed with perfect weather, some authentic historic farmhouse accommodation and knowledgeable guides.

November 12, 2018| Our Community/

Our Favourite Victorian Farmer's Markets

It’s easy for anyone who has travelled overseas and comes home to Australia to realise how fortunate we are when it comes to affordable and readily available fresh, wholesome food.