8 Reasons You are Experiencing Shortness of Breath

Breathlessness is normal, but when severe and accompanied by other symptoms, it could indicate underlying health issues. Find out reasons for breathlessness and the way forward.

By URLife Team
18 Mar 2024

Difficulty breathing can catch you off guard – whether from a strenuous workout, changing weather, or other factors like poor air quality, altitude, or carrying extra weight, but it’s all normal and natural to experience the same, as per the American Lung Association.


But if you suddenly find yourself struggling to catch your breath for no apparent reason, it could signal an underlying condition to be addressed. 


It's important to note that context matters. If you're not accustomed to regular exercise or movement and find yourself gasping for air when climbing stairs, that might not be a cause for concern.


However, it can be jarring to experience shortness of breath when doing something as simple as walking around, getting yourself a glass of water or so on. It is not normal if you realise that something previously manageable is now leaving you short of breath.


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Shortness of Breath While Walking

When you experience shortness of breath while walking, it could indicate underlying cardiovascular problems. This occurs because your heart may not be able to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the demands of your body during physical activity. As a result, you may feel breathless as your body struggles to get the oxygen it needs.


Conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, or arrhythmias can impair the heart's ability to function properly, leading to breathlessness. Additionally, conditions like high blood pressure can strain the heart and contribute to breathing difficulties during exertion.


Shortness of Breath When Anxious 

Shortness of breath can be triggered by anxiety due to the body's natural fight-or-flight response. When you're anxious, your body releases stress hormones like adrenaline, which can cause your breathing rate to increase and your chest muscles to tighten. This can make it feel like you're not getting enough air, even though you are. Additionally, anxiety can lead to hyperventilation, where you breathe rapidly and shallowly, disrupting the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood and causing symptoms of breathlessness.


Related Post: Improve Heart Health With This Breathing Exercise


Shortness of Breath When Anaemic

When you engage in physical activity, such as climbing stairs, your body demands more oxygen to fuel your muscles. This increased demand for oxygen can lead to shortness of breath as your respiratory and circulatory systems work harder to meet the body's needs.


According to a 2023 study published by the American Lung Association, using a lot of energy, as required during climbing stairs, jogging, and exercising can also contribute to shortness of breath. Researchers have discovered that continuously climbing stairs demands over nine times the energy compared to sitting.


Furthermore, if you're anaemic, your body may struggle to produce enough red blood cells to carry oxygen efficiently, and this can exacerbate the challenge of meeting the energy demands of physical activity. This could potentially lead to increased breathlessness during exertion or even basic movements if you are anaemic.


Shortness of Breath When Pregnant 

Breathlessness is not always a thing to be concerned of, instead it can indicate good news. 


According to a 2015 study by Clinical Cardiology, two out of three individuals who were pregnant experienced shortness of breath at some point during their pregnancy.


Breathlessness is quite common in pregnancy especially in the first trimester. It is likely to be due to hormonal and physical changes. Pregnancy hormones (progesterone and oestrogen) increase your body's ability to breathe out carbon dioxide and breathe in oxygen, to meet your growing baby’s needs. Also, pregnancy changes your circulatory and respiratory systems in order to account for the growing foetus and this could also lead to shortness of breath.


Related Post: De-stress In Four Minutes With Box Breathing


Shortness of Breath When Deconditioned

Feeling short of breath due to deconditioning is common among individuals leading sedentary lifestyles with minimal physical activity. When you're not regularly active, your heart seldom operates at its peak capacity. Consequently, over time, this reduced activity level diminishes the heart's maximum output. As a result, the heart must work harder and beat faster to adequately pump blood to oxygenate muscles and support even minor tasks, leading to a sensation of breathlessness.


Moreover, the effects of deconditioning extend beyond the heart's function. Muscles, including those involved in breathing, can weaken with inactivity. This muscle weakness can further exacerbate feelings of dyspnea, making even routine activities feel more challenging. Therefore, maintaining regular physical activity is vital not only for cardiovascular health but also for preserving overall muscle strength and reducing the risk of breathlessness associated with deconditioning.


Shortness of Breath Due to Allergies 

Shortness of breath from allergies usually happens because allergens like pollen or pet dander irritate your airways. This irritation can make your airways swell up and get narrower, making it harder to catch your breath. Allergic reactions might also cause coughing, wheezing, or a tight chest, adding to the feeling of breathlessness. Taking steps to avoid your triggers and using medications like antihistamines or inhalers, and following your doctor's advice can help ease breathing troubles caused by allergies.


Related Post: The Power of Mindful Breathing: Advantages and Easy Techniques You Should Know About


Shortness of Breath Due to Obesity 

If you're obese or have a BMI of 30 or higher, you may experience shortness of breath due to the extra weight putting pressure on your lungs and chest. This can make it harder for your lungs to expand fully and for you to breathe comfortably. Additionally, obesity is often associated with other conditions such as sleep apnea or heart disease, which can further contribute to breathing difficulties. Losing weight through a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise can help improve breathing and reduce the risk of associated health problems.


Shortness of Breath Due to Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections, such as the common cold, flu, or pneumonia, can cause shortness of breath due to inflammation and congestion in the airways and lungs. These infections often lead to symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness, which can make breathing difficult. In more severe cases, respiratory infections can progress to pneumonia or bronchitis, further compromising lung function and exacerbating breathing difficulties. Treatment for respiratory infections may include rest, hydration, over-the-counter medications, or antibiotics, depending on the specific infection and its severity.


Need all your wellness solutions in one place? A whole new world awaits just a click away.


Regular health checks are essential for everyone, but they are particularly important for individuals who are at risk of or already have any underlying condition. Taking regular health checks can help detect the condition at an early stage when it is easier to manage and treat. With the UR.Life HRA, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments. Our holistic wellness approach caters to all aspects of your well-being. We ensure that you can bring your whole self to work.

With our medical professionals by your side, routine health check-ups will never be an issue. Advanced laboratory technologies back UR.Life’s Occupational Health Centers (OHC), and with highly qualified experts/technicians, we’re committed to delivering trusted and quality recommendations, modifications and advice to you.




Satya 21 Mar 2024

Very nice Article

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