How do you know if your shortness of breath and difficulty exercising is serious?

Consultant Cardiologist Ahmed Elgahamaz gives guidance on how to know if symptoms like breathlessness or difficulty exercising are serious.

It is challenging for you to judge if your breathlessness is serious or not. One thing I always ask my patients is, is the breathlessness out of context of what you’re used to?

For example, if you go on a treadmill, or you’re running a marathon, you’ll always be breathless because your breathing is essentially trying to compensate your body with enough oxygen to be able to do the exercise you’re doing…

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However, if someone can normally run up two flights of stairs without major difficulty, and that suddenly becomes a problem, then obviously this is serious enough to be investigated.

If you’re used to running 3k or 5k comfortably and then suddenly this becomes a problem after 2k, then obviously there’s something going on. If you’re used to doing something and then suddenly that changes and you’re breathless at a much easier level of exercise, or a much lower level of exertion.

A change in the pattern of what you’re used to as a patient or a person is something serious that needs to be investigated.

I strongly urge you to take our heart disease online self-test to assess your risk of developing heart disease in the future. It will take you less than five minutes and will give you a good idea if you are at increased risk and whether or not you need to see a specialist.

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About the cardiologists

The Many Beats team consists of not one, but four highly experienced consultant cardiologists

Dr Navtej Chahal

Consultant Cardiologist


Navtej is a Consultant Cardiologist at Many Beats. He also consults at the London Northwest NHS Trust and the Royal Brompton Hospital, London having qualified from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Medical School in 2001. He is an Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at Imperial College London

Dr Navin Chandra

Consultant Cardiologist


Navin is a Consultant Cardiologist at Many Beats. He is also a Consultant Cardiologist at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust and an Honorary Consultant Cardiologist at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust. He qualified from Guy’s, King’s & St. Thomas’s in 2004...

Dr Ahmed Elghamaz

Consultant Cardiologist


Ahmed is a Consultant Cardiologist at Many Beats. He also consults at Northwick Park Hospital and London North West Healthcare University Hospitals NHS Trust and is an Honorary Consultant Cardiologist at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust. He completed his junior…

Dr Joban Sehmi

Consultant Cardiologist


Joban is a Consultant Cardiologist at Many Beats. His NHS practice is at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS trust. He sees patients privately at Spire in Bushey and Bishops Wood Hospital in Northwood. He trained in medicine at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ medical school and qualified in 2003 with numerous academic awards…