Patients in the East of England are being urged to visit their general practice if they experience breathlessness, as part of a new campaign by PHE to raise awareness about the symptom's link to heart and lung disease.
PHE estimates that up to 122,000 people in the East of England have an undiagnosed heart or lung condition. However, a survey of patients revealed that only 33 per cent were aware of the link between shortness of breath and heart and lung disease. Nationally, it is thought that nearly 80 per cent of patients admitted to hospital with heart failure suffered from moderate to severe breathlessness beforehand.
Dr Linda Pearce, a respiratory consultant nurse at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: 'Struggling with everyday activities such as vacuuming or walking can be the first indicator that someone is living with breathlessness. Breathlessness doesn't just involve difficulty breathing, but can involve more rapid breathing, or feeling like you are not getting enough air. This can be uncomfortable and worrying.'
Another study by PHE of patients in the East of England found that breathlessness was associated with other conditions far more than heart and lung disease. Three quarters of respondents linked it to asthma, 72 per cent associated it with a lack of fitness, and 70 per cent believed it was caused by smoking.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: 'People should not just consider breathlessness a normal part of ageing or put it down to being unfit. Persistent and unusual breathlessness could be a sign of lung disease, such as COPD, of which it is estimated there are over a million people in England still undiagnosed. Improved diagnosis could offer patients better treatment options and a higher quality of life. So while it could well be nothing serious, it is important to seek advice as soon as possible.'