Heart failure is a type of cardiovascular disease that occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood around the body, usually because it has become too stiff or weak.

It is thought to affect more than one million people in the UK, with around 200,000 new diagnoses every year.

According to the British Heart Foundation around 40 percent of patients living with the condition have the early stages of heart failure that could have been spotted before they became seriously ill.

When we think of heart issues many of us would think of symptoms that affect the chest, such as chest pain and shortness of breath.

While these are indicators that something could be wrong with the organ, there are also some less obvious signs that can appear in some unlikely places.

Such a warning sign of heart failure can be present in the feet.

The Mayo Clinic describes how swollen feet could indicate heart failure.

Known medically as oedema, it can also affect the ankles and legs.

“Congestive heart failure causes one or both of the heart’s lower chambers to stop pumping blood well,” it says.

“As a result, blood can back up in the legs, ankles and feet, causing oedema.”

And the NHS lists oedema in the ankles and legs as one of the “most common” signs of heart failure.

“It may be better in the morning and get worse later in the day,” the health body says.

Oedema caused by heart failure could also lead to swelling in the stomach.

The Mayo Clinic adds: “Congestive heart failure can also cause swelling in the stomach area.

“This condition also can cause fluid to build up in the lungs. Known as pulmonary oedema, this can lead to shortness of breath.”

If one or both of your ankles, feet, or legs are swollen and don’t improve after a few days or gets worse you should contact your GP.

The swelling doesn’t necessarily mean you have heart failure though, it could also indicate a sprain or insect bite.

Oedema can also be caused by standing or sitting in the same position for too long, being overweight or pregnant, and taking certain medications such as steroids or antidepressants.

The warning signs of heart failure will differ depending on the person and may start suddenly or come on gradually over weeks or even months.

The more common signs include:

  • Breathlessness – this may occur after activity or at rest; it may be worse when you’re lying down, and you may wake up at night needing to catch your breath
  • Fatigue – you may feel tired most of the time and find exercise exhausting
  • Feeling lightheaded and fainting.

Other symptoms are:

  • A persistent cough, which may be worse at night
  • Wheezing
  • A bloated tummy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Confusion
  • A fast heart rate
  • A pounding, fluttering or irregular heartbeat (palpitations).
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