Recent Blog Articles
The popularity of microdosing of psychedelics: What does the science say?
Pouring from an empty cup? Three ways to refill emotionally
Is pregnancy safe for everyone?
New pediatric guidelines on obesity in children and teens
Screening tests may save lives — so when is it time to stop?
Natural disasters strike everywhere: Ways to help protect your health
The case of the bad placebo
Do we feel pain more at night?
If you use cannabis, do it safely
Time for a diabetes tune-up
Diseases & Conditions
Shortness of breath: A common symptom with many possible causes
Heart and lung issues are often to blame for breathlessness. But an accurate diagnosis may require advanced testing.
Like your heartbeat, the regular inhale and exhale of your breathing is something you usually don't notice — until something doesn't feel quite right. Shortness of breath can result from a range of problems, including an allergic reaction, an anxiety attack, or anemia. But most often, the underlying cause is a heart or lung condition.
"Because these two organ systems are so intertwined, one always affects the other," says Dr. Aaron B. Waxman, who directs the Pulmonary Vascular Disease Program at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. In fact, about 60% of people with heart disease also have a lung disease. As a result, it's not always easy to distinguish cardiac and pulmonary issues, he says.
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Free Healthbeat Signup
Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!