Getting breathless could be a warning sign

Sandy Walmsley says our 'listen to your lungs' campaign could change lives.

Sandy Walmsley

We all feel out of breath from time-to-time. I know I do.

I try and go to the gym regularly as well as swim. If for some reason I miss a session I find I am more out of breath after my exercise. This is a reminder that not only is it usual for me to be breathless after exercising, but it is also important to keep exercising regularly.

Getting out of breath is usually a good thing. When I get breathless, I know it’s because of heavy physical exertion. And I know that I can control it easily.

But not all of us have that luxury.

For some people I speak to, it can come out of the blue. It can happen after everyday activities. Or it can be there almost all the time.

That’s very frightening.

We’re raising awareness

Feeling out of breath can be a sign of lung disease, or cardiovascular disease.

But too many people dismiss it. They think it’s a part of getting older. They think they’re just unfit. They think they’re responsible.

They don’t realise that help is available.

This year, we’re raising awareness that feeling short of breath can be a sign of something more serious.

It’s simple – the sooner people realise their breathlessness isn’t normal, the sooner they can see a doctor, get a diagnosis, and receive the treatment they need.

Getting treatment sooner means they’ll recover better – and that can save a lot of NHS resources.

Would you get out of breath walking up a flight of stairs? Do you pause while walking down the street, in order to catch your breath?

If you get out of breath doing everyday activities, if you take longer to do them, or even avoid doing them altogether – it’s time to go and see your doctor.

Our breath test

I know it doesn’t always seem that straightforward.

Anyone who gets out of breath is likely to feel anxious or embarrassed. And that means going to see a health care professional can seem very daunting.

That’s why we’ve developed our online breath test.

It’s 10 quick and easy questions about your everyday life. At the end you’ll get a personalised report, which will help you decide if you need to speak to somebody.

It uses the Medical Research Council (MRC) breathlessness score, which is used by doctors. And it’s been developed with the help of experts, and people affected by lung disease. So you know you can trust it.

It’s really simple, but it could change lives. I’m very proud of it.

Get involved

We’re doing everything we can to make people aware of these issues. But there’s only so much we can do by ourselves.

We need you to help get the word out.

1 person out of every 5 in the UK is affected by lung disease. That means you probably know people who could benefit.

If you know someone who worries about getting out of breath, please tell them about our breath test. You could share it on Facebook or Twitter, send them a message in an email or text. If they don’t have internet access, you could take your smartphone or tablet along next time you see them.

And you can take the breath test for yourself.

Find out more about our listen to your lungs campaign. Or take our quick and easy online test to find out if you should speak to your GP.

Take the test now >

We’re the only UK charity looking after the nation’s lungs - and we want you to think about what makes you feel breathless.


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11 June 2016