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Heart & Blood 2021

Knowing the symptoms of heart failure could save your life

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Norma Caples

National Nurse Lead, Heart Failure programme Ireland

Cathy Farrell

President, Irish Association of Heart Failure Nurses

The majority of adults in Ireland do not fully understand heart failure, mistakenly thinking the symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack and that heart failure means your heart stops.


Heart failure (HF) is when the pump action of the heart is not working efficiently and as a result your body starts to retain fluid. People who have heart failure may experience a loss of normal physical functioning owing to symptoms such as severe breathlessness and fatigue.

Additionally, the typical signs for heart failure include swelling of the legs, increase in weight despite no change in diet, or waking up from your sleep feeling breathless. If you have symptoms of heart failure it is vital you go to your doctor to be checked out.

There are many causes of heart failure, but many common ones are previous angina, heart attacks or high blood pressure so those with these conditions may be at highest risk of HF. Although it can occur in those without any heart history.

Heart failure services throughout Ireland continue to strive to improve patients’ experiences of care and quality of life.

Diagnosing heart failure

To test if you may have heart failure your GP may need you to have a blood test. If it comes back positive, it means you need more investigations to determine if you have the condition. One of these is an echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart. The test will examine the pumping function of the heart and help the doctor to give you a diagnosis.

Heart failure services throughout Ireland continue to strive to improve patients’ experiences of care and quality of life by raising awareness about the importance of recognising heart failure, getting an accurate diagnosis and receiving optimal treatment. If you have heart failure your GP may be able to refer you to a community diagnostic clinic if there is one in your area.

Preventing heart failure

You can also help prevent getting heart failure by keeping your diabetes well controlled, ensure your blood pressure is in the normal range, eating healthy which includes avoiding excess salt, sugar, fat, avoid being overweight, stop smoking, limit alcohol and engage in daily exercise.

The Irish Heart Foundation helps those diagnosed to live well with heart failure. As you move from hospital to home, heart failure patients can access a Nurse Support Line to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

The ‘Heart Support Network’ Facebook group helps connect with others living with a heart condition, counselling, exercise sessions, monthly meetings with health care professionals working in heart failure, and a range of further information and support.

Please email [email protected] or phone 01 6685001

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