Question: How do I know when shortness of breath is due to other conditions such as emphysema, or heart disease?
Answer: Shortness of breath is a very serious symptom. If you were to develop sudden onset of shortness of breath, you should call 9-1-1 -- it could be a sign of a heart attack. Other people will develop shortness of breath with exertion.
If you think that you have more shortness of breath than what has been present in the past, or that seems to be different than other people around you, you should definitely have this checked. It can be a sign of heart disease, it can be a symptom of emphysema or some other problem, but it always should be examined.
Some people have chest discomfort and they describe it as shortness of breath, and a cardiologist or another physician might say this is typical of someone with coronary artery disease. So don't discount if you have unexplained shortness of breath, get it evaluated immediately.