Shortness of breath is frequently caused by strenuous exercise, temperature extremes, obesity or high altitudes, states Mayo Clinic. The majority of medical conditions causing shortness of breath are related to heart and lung problems. Anxiety and panic attacks can also produce shortness of breath, states MedlinePlus.
The heart and lungs operate together to supply oxygen to the body and discharge carbon dioxide, explains Mayo Clinic. Problems occurring at any stage of this process can interfere with normal breathing and cause shortness of breath.
Heart arrythmias, heart attacks and cardiomyopathy can cause the heart to be unable to deliver a sufficient supply of oxygenated blood to body tissues, according to Mayo Clinic. Hypotension (low blood pressure) also impacts the amount of oxygen distributed throughout the body and can cause a person to experience shortness of breath.
Asthma is a condition that makes airways constrict, swell and produce an excessive amount of mucus, interfering with normal breathing and often causing shortness of breath, reports Mayo Clinic. Asthma has no cured and can be triggered by a number of factors including allergies, exposure to air pollutants, respiratory infections and exercise.
Problems with the lungs that cause shortness of breath include chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, or COPDs, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, arterial blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolisms), and pneumonia, states MedlinePlus.