Shortness of Breath & VP Cheney

Medical Authors and Editors: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D. and Frederick Hecht, M.D.

November 15, 2004 -- Vice President Dick Cheney complained of shortness of breath and underwent tests at a Washington hospital this weekend. There was concern because the vice president has had significant heart problems for years but Mr. Cheney was able to go home from the hospital after three hours.

His cardiologist, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, issued a statement saying: "Tests ruled out any cardiac cause of the vice president's symptoms. Tests also ruled out pneumonia and other pulmonary causes. The vice president likely has a viral upper-respiratory infection."


Formal medical statements tend to be just that -- formal. To put Mr. Cheney's condition into everyday words, we might say: "He did not have a
heart attack or pneumonia. He probably just has a bad cold."

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath, medically known as dyspnea, is an important symptom but there is no standard definition for it. However, the causes of shortness of breath or dyspnea fall into simple categories. These categories include anxiety, muscle and nerve diseases, heart disease, lung vessel diseases, lung disease, and obstruction to airflow.


Anxiety can lead to acute or chronic hyperventilation (excessively rapid breathing). An average 150 pound (70 kilogram) adult breaths at an average rate of 14 breaths per minute at rest. Excessively rapid breathing is referred to as hyperventilation. It is a common cause of shortness of breath.