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When is shortness of breath a concern?

Seasons logo Seasons 9/22/2022 Keith Siegel
woman leaning against wall, younger man helping her © Seasons woman leaning against wall, younger man helping her

Question: My mom is 74 and is a daily walker but took a few weeks off. Ever since she started again, she goes the same distance around her neighborhood but gets short of breath more quickly. When is shortness of breath a concern? I’m wondering if it’s her stamina or a more serious condition.

Answer: There is an adage that says, “If you rest, you rust.” This is very true because it does not take long at all to become deconditioned. And of course, one of the first signs of being deconditioned is feeling out of breath with any exertion. With that in mind, it’s possible that taking a few weeks off from her daily walk has resulted in your mom getting short of breath more easily than she used to. 

However, many things can cause shortness of breath – some of which can be very serious – and the smartest and safest course of action would be for her to ask her doctor if she is just deconditioned from her decreased exercise regimen or if it’s something more serious. Her doctor can evaluate her and determine whether she simply needs to build her stamina back up or if she needs a further workup to identify the cause of the shortness of breath and decreased exercise tolerance. 

When it comes to shortness of breath, it should not be ignored. Have your mom talk to her doctor. It’s the wise thing to do. It’s in her best interest to get to the bottom of her shortness of breath quickly so she can safely resume her daily walks and enjoy all the benefits of exercise.


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