Everyone runs out of breath from physical exertion. But for people with a condition called dyspnea, even a minor effort makes breathing difficult. A new study suggests that these people are at greater risk of dying of heart problems or other ailments than are people who have chest tightness, a well-known sign of cardiac trouble.
Beginning in 1991, a team led by cardiologist Daniel S. Berman of Cedars–Sinai Medical Center and the University of California, Los Angeles identified more than 1,000 patients diagnosed with dyspnea but who had no history of a heart problem. Other doctors had ruled out asthma or other lung problems in these patients and referred them to the cardiologists for testing.
Berman's team also identified much larger groups of people with angina—chest tightness that can signal an obstructed coronary artery—and of other patients referred for possible heart problems. Most of the patients were in their 60s or 70s.
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