If you get out of breath doing things you used to be able to do, don't ignore it. Call your GP today.
We all get short of breath sometimes, but if you get out of breath doing everyday things you used to be able to do it could be a sign of lung disease, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), or heart disease.
It could also be a sign of other health problems such as anaemia or anxiety. But don't try and diagnose yourself, go and see your doctor to find out for sure.
The good news is that the conditions that cause shortness of breath can often be treated. So it's important to see your doctor if your breathing is difficult or uncomfortable, or if it feels like you can't get enough air.
Breathlessness could also be a sign of lung cancer, which is why it's so important to see your doctor. Early detection makes it easier to treat. Seeing your doctor could save your life.
I was diagnosed with COPD and now I am receiving treatment for it, things are so much more manageable.
Alan Cooley, aged 65
If you get out of breath doing everyday activities such as light housework, walking short distances on relatively flat ground (for example to your local shop), gardening or climbing a short flight of stairs, you should see your GP as soon as possible.
You should also see your doctor if you have any of the symptoms below, as they can also be signs of lung or heart disease.
It's important to see your doctor if you have these symptoms, and not put them down to "a smoker’s cough" or getting older. These diseases can be treated more effectively the earlier they are diagnosed.
If you know anyone who has any of these symptoms, encourage them to see their doctor.
Supporter of the British Lung Foundation
I was working on a building site and was starting to feel more and more out of breath as I went about my work. I was carrying less and less material around and found it hard to get anything done without pausing for breath.
I didn't realise how bad it was and tried to hide it, but my family and workmates began to notice and persuaded me to visit my doctor. I was diagnosed with COPD, and now I am receiving treatment for it things are so much more manageable. I can finally walk reasonable distances again without pausing for breath!
If you've been experiencing breathlessness for a while, you're not wasting anyone's time by getting your symptoms checked out.
Before you visit your GP, it may help to write down your symptoms so you don't forget anything on your visit.
At your appointment, your doctor may ask you some questions, such as how long you have had your symptoms and whether they have changed over time.
Your doctor may suggest some tests such as a chest x-ray, blood tests and lung function tests. These are all standard procedures and nothing to worry about.
Find out what to expect when you see your doctor – watch the video.
Everybody will experience breathlessness every now and again, for example after physical exertion or heavy exercise that you are not used to. This is healthy and normal.
Getting out of breath can also be a sign of other health problems such as anaemia or anxiety, or it could be the result of being overweight or physically inactive.
However, sometimes being short of breath can be a sign of something more serious – an illness, such as heart or lung disease, or other health problems, such as asthma. Diagnosing these conditions early makes them more treatable.
A healthy lifestyle can help you reduce your risk of lung disease, including lung cancer. Some ways to stay healthy are:
For more information on how to reduce your risk of cancer, visit nhs.uk/reduce-your-risk.
Content last reviewed: May 2017