Shortness of breath when bending over can occur due to worsening heart failure, but it can also happen with other conditions or be a side effect of excess weight.
Shortness of breath when bending over is known as bendopnea. It can be a symptom of heart failure and other potentially serious health issues.
Bendopnea is generally defined as shortness of breath that happens within 30 seconds of bending over at the waist.
If you experience shortness of breath when bending over, your doctor may screen you for a number of conditions, including heart failure and pulmonary fibrosis.
Let’s take a closer look at what causes shortness of breath when bending over and how it’s diagnosed and treated.
The term “bendopnea” was first coined in a
Doctors said that while shortness of breath in any position is a common symptom of heart failure, they observed that many of their patients complained specifically of shortness of breath when bending over at the waist.
Excess fluid due to heart failure
Shortness of breath when bending over happens because the heart — already weakened by heart failure — cannot adjust to the shifting fluid levels in the abdomen.
People with heart failure tend to retain excess fluid. As such, the pressure exerted by this fluid on the heart when bending over makes it even harder for the heart to pump effectively.
Lung conditions and excess weight
Shortness of breath when bending over can be a symptom of other conditions, too. Most are related to heart or lung function.
For example, bendopnea can be a symptom of pulmonary fibrosis, a condition in which lung tissue has become scarred and damaged.
Individuals with pulmonary fibrosis who also carry excess weight around their abdomen may experience bendopnea since the extra weight can put pressure on the diaphragm and other muscles required for breathing.
For similar reasons, people with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) — high blood pressure in the arteries within the lungs — may also have shortness of breath when bending over.
Difficulty breathing is the main symptom of bendopnea, but it can sometimes be accompanied by chest pressure or discomfort.
The sudden onset of shortness of breath can also increase anxiety and stress as you try to resume your normal breathing.
Some people with bendopnea may also have shortness of breath at other times. Lying flat and having shortness of breath, for example, is called orthopnea. It’s also a common symptom of heart failure and other cardiovascular problems.
If you have shortness of breath when bending over but haven’t been diagnosed with a heart issue or respiratory problem, see your doctor. They can order tests to assess the health of your heart and lungs.
This is particularly important if you experience other heart disease symptoms, such as:
- ongoing fatigue
- a rapid or irregular heartbeat
- reduced endurance when exercising
- swelling in the feet and lower legs
- wheezing, even when not exerting yourself
When to get immediate medical attention
A doctor may be able to tell if you have bendopnea by having you bend at the waist to see if your breathing becomes more difficult.
Generally, for people who have bendopnea, shortness of breath will typically develop within around 30 seconds of bending forward.
If you haven’t been diagnosed with a heart or lung condition, your doctor will order various tests to determine the underlying cause of your shortness of breath when you bend over.
There is no specific treatment for bendopnea. The treatment will depend on its underlying cause.
If the shortness of breath is due to heart failure, your doctor may prescribe a diuretic (also known as water pills) to help reduce the fluid levels in your body.
According to the
Weight loss may also be recommended for some people with bendopnea. If you have heart failure or pulmonary arterial hypertension, it’s important to discuss any changes in your diet and exercise routine with your doctor.
The outlook for someone with bendopnea depends on its cause. Heart failure is a serious condition that can be managed when it is mild. Advanced heart failure is harder to treat.
According to the Heart Failure Society of America, about 50% of people with heart failure will live at least 5 years, while only about 10–20% of people with advanced or severe heart failure will live at least 1 year after diagnosis.
If you don’t have cardiac or pulmonary health issues but experience shortness of breath when bending over, a weight loss program may help relieve bendopnea symptoms.
Bendopnea is a symptom: shortness of breath when bending over. If you notice that it’s harder to breathe when you bend over, be sure to let a doctor know.
Bendopnea may be due to excess weight around your stomach. But it could also be a sign of a more serious heart or lung condition, such as worsening heart failure or pulmonary fibrosis.
Treating bendopnea will depend on the underlying cause. If it’s due to heart failure, you may be prescribed diuretics to help reduce the fluid levels in your body, as well as other medications to help manage the health of your heart.