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Dr JONTY HEAVERSEDGE on what you should do about problems with breathlessness

 

How’s your breathing? When was the last time you got out of breath?

Being out of breath when you have just run for the bus or taken part in sport or exercise is normal and healthy. But if you are finding you get breathless doing things that you used to be able to do more easily, don’t ignore it, tell your GP.

Despite the impact that breathlessness can have on daily living, doctors often find that patients compensate for it by making changes to how they live and they don’t even mention it during consultations.

Breathlessness or having a cough for three weeks or more could be a sign of conditions such as lung disease, lung cancer and heart failure so it is important that anyone experiencing these symptoms tells their GP. The GP will be able to examine and test the patient, diagnose the problem and if necessary start treatment. Earlier diagnosis has the potential to save lives and improve the quality of life of those living with lung conditions or heart disease.

Difficulty breathing can make people anxious and anxiety can also make it harder to breath. If this is something you experience, tell your GP as they can help.

It is estimated that in England there are around 80,000 undiagnosed cases of lung cancer, one million cases of the lung condition Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and 600,000 undiagnosed cases of coronary heart disease – which means approximately 1.7 million people living undiagnosed with these conditions.

We can all improve our health and prevent other medical conditions developing by making healthy lifestyle choices. For further information about the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, other lung diseases and heart disease, as well as how to reduce your risk, visit www.nhs.uk/outofbreath

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