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Published on October 16, 2015

Short of breath? How getting checked may help add years to your life

Do you get winded after running up stairs? That’s OK—it’s to be expected. But what about after strolling around the block?

breath“Shortness of breath after little or no exertion isn’t normal,” warns Mercy Cardiologist Martin O’Riordan, MD. If it happens to you, tell your doctor immediately. Your symptom might be a sign of pulmonary hypertension (PH), a very serious disease.

Live a longer, healthier life

Not long ago, PH was often a deadly condition. “But now it can be controlled,” Dr. O’Riordan says. “There is still no cure, but new treatments are helping people live longer, healthier lives.” And the sooner treatment starts, the easier it is to manage the disease.

Anyone with unexplained shortness of breath can be evaluated for PH here with a simple test. This test, offered at Mercy Philadelphia and Mercy Fitzgerald Hospitals, is an echocardiogram. In addition, a cardiopulmonary bicycle test can help determine the causes of shortness of breath.

What is pulmonary hypertension?

“PH is a type of high blood pressure that occurs in the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your lungs,” says Dr. O’Riordan. Over time, it can strain your heart and cause shortness of breath, chest pain and fatigue. Many different things can cause it, from heart valve problems to blood clots in the lung.

What’s more, it’s often tricky to diagnose. That’s because its symptoms can mimic those of other heart and lung problems.

The cardiopulmonary bicycle test helps diagnose PH by showing how both the lungs and heart handle exercise while patients work out on a stationary bike.
And it can detect not just PH, but also other heart and lung problems that make breathing hard.

Short of breath?

Our team can help you know what you can do to breathe easier. For an appointment, call 484.494.7452.

Breathing: By the Numbers

15 to 20: How often a person at rest breathes each minute.

20,000+: The number of times we breathe in a day.

7 million+: How many breaths we take in a year.

Source: American Lung Association

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