Shortness of breath doesn't always signal a serious heart emergency – but it may. It's normal to be short of breath for a short period after strenuous exercise, at high altitudes, or upon sudden exposure to very hot or cold temperatures. But it's a good idea to call a doctor (or go directly to the emergency room) when unexplained shortness of breath appears for the first time, occurs at rest or with chest pain, or gets worse if you already have heart failure, asthma, or emphysema.
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