Breathlessness on a normal everyday exertion like walking – not playing sport or using a gym.  Typically, this starts when walking uphill and becomes progressively worse.  It may start to show on minor inclines and then even on the flat, especially when you hurry. 

You can help your doctor by noting how severe the breathlessness is, from when it comes on:

  • How many stairs can you climb before you have to stop to catch your breath?
  • Do you get breathless only on steep hills or on gentle hills – or even on the flat?  
  • Does it happen at a normal walking pace – or only if you hurry or carry a bag? 
  • Has there been a change? Could you manage 3 flights of stairs 6 months ago and only 1 flight now?

Breathlessness is a possible symptom of all types of valve disease.  It is caused by pressure building up in the left heart which makes the lungs stiff and less efficient at absorbing oxygen.

Breathless at night. If valve disease progresses, you may become breathless at night, because more blood returns to the heart when you’re lying down. 

Your cardiologist will want to know if you sleep on more pillows than usual, or sleep propped up or in a chair.  You may even wake at night with severe breathlessness after slipping off the pillows. This symptom is important and you should arrange urgent review by a Healthcare Professional if you are experiencing this symptom.