Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties can have several causes, including asthma, emphysema, heart disease or anxiety. One cause of several health problems that may present with breathing difficulties is having overweight. In some cases, losing weight may help if you have difficulty breathing.
If you are having severe breathing difficulties, seek emergency medical help immediately. If breathing problems are mild, contact your doctor as soon as possible for an evaluation.
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If you have difficulty breathing, you may have pneumonia, asthma or emphysema. Pneumonia is caused by a viral or bacterial infection, and emphysema often is caused by smoking. Asthma may be caused or exacerbated by excess weight, explains KidsHealth. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing or shortness of breath. You may notice that you find it difficult to breathe after exerting yourself, such as when you climb stairs or walk across a parking lot.
Obesity and Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea can cause you to stop breathing for at least 10 seconds at a time, dozens or even hundreds of times per night. The breathing difficulties you experience during sleep may make you very tired during the day, but you may not wake up fully during the night to notice that you are not breathing properly. One risk factor for sleep apnea is being overweight, especially if you tend to carry your extra weight in your abdomen.
In some cases, shortness of breath can be caused by cardiovascular diseases. If you do not have enough oxygen in your blood due to heart disease, you may feel as though you are not getting enough air and may gasp for breath or feel as though you have to take many deep breaths to compensate. Obesity places you at risk for heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol, all of which take a toll on the heart and can lead to breathing difficulties.
Reduce your risk of developing breathing difficulties by losing weight if you have overweight or obesity. Talk to your physician before beginning any weight loss plan, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose. A reasonable goal for weight loss is to try to lose 1 to 2 lbs. per week by reducing the number of calories that you eat and by increasing the number of calories that you burn through exercise. If you have breathing difficulty, work carefully with your doctor to find an effective exercise that will be safe for your medical condition.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.