Harvard Heart Letter

Coping with shortness of breath

One of the most distressing complications of advanced heart failure is the feeling that you can't get enough air. This shortness of breath — dyspnea — has been defined as "a subjective experience of breathing discomfort" and "an uncomfortable sensation or awareness of breathing." People who have chronic shortness of breath describe it as suffocating, smothering, and hungering for air. Chronic shortness of breath affects millions of people. It also commonly accompanies conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, stroke, muscular dystrophy, and others. Researchers have formulated new guidelines to identify and treat this condition in those who suffer from it.
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