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Heart Health

Coping with shortness of breath

Updated: February 01, 2011

New guidelines suggest treatments for the shortness of breath that can accompany advanced heart failure.

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 (DISp-knee-uh) in medicalese — has been defined in the cool language of clinicians 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.

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