AskNadia: Why Am I Out of Breath When I Walk Up The Staircase with High Blood Sugars?

Dear Nadia,

My blood sugars have been hovering around 250 mg/dL. Walking up the staircase to my bedroom makes me feel like I ran a marathon. I am out of breath by the time I reach the top floor.


Dear John:

Walking up stairs requires more physical effort than walking on a flat surface. It can increase your heart and breathing rates if you are not accustomed to regular exercise or have certain health conditions.


Shortness of breath during physical activity, such as walking up stairs, can indicate inadequate oxygen supply to the body’s tissues. In the case of a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or unstable angina (chest pain), the blood supply to the heart muscle may be compromised. This can result in reduced oxygen delivery, leading to symptoms like shortness of breath.


Elevated blood sugar levels of 250 mg/dL can affect your cardiovascular system. If your blood sugar levels have been consistently high, it can strain your heart more. Persistent high blood sugar levels may cause damage to blood vessels, impair circulation, and lead to shortness of breath and cardiovascular complications.


High blood sugar levels also increase the density or thickness of the blood. This happens because too much sugar in the bloodstream can bind to and modify specific proteins, leading to changes in the blood flow. As a result, the blood becomes thicker and flows more slowly through the blood vessels. This can reduce the oxygen delivery to the heart and muscles.


If you have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with your diabetes, it can be another reason you are experiencing a shortness-of-breath.


I would call your healthcare professional immediately to ensure that your shortness of breath is not masking a cardiovascular event.


Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is weakened and cannot effectively pump blood. When the heart’s pumping function is compromised, blood can go back into the lungs, causing fluid accumulation and shortness of breath, especially with physical exertion.


Keep me posted on your progress and what feedback you have received from your healthcare team.

You may also be interested in reading these stories:

What is A Normal Blood Sugar After Eating

How Do I Lower My Blood Sugar When It Goes Over 200 mg/dL?

What Type 2s Can Do When Blood Sugars Soars

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