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How to spot subtle signs of heart failure

According to the CDC, 6.5 million Americans have heart failure and that number is growing, even among young adults.

“Things like obesity, growing rates of diabetes and probably other factors that we don’t totally understand maybe pollution or other things are raising levels of heart disease in certain populations,” explained Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, executive director of Interventional Cardiovascular Programs, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Unlike a heart attack that hits fast and hard, heart failure can be a gradual process. Before you realize what’s happening, a lot of damage can be done.

Some signs and symptoms of heart failure can be dangerously mistaken for something else.

So how can you spot heart failure? Of course, chest pain is a red flag that something might be going on with your heart, but did you know that snoring can also be a sign? Heavy snoring could be a sign of an obstructed airway. If it’s severe enough that you stop breathing altogether for brief periods, that can place your heart at risk.

Heartburn can feel like you’re having a heart attack which may lead to heart failure, but unlike heartburn, which causes a burning sensation, a heart attack will feel like a tight, constricting pressure.

Some other signs of heart failure include:

“Shortness of breath, fluid build-up in the lungs, fluid build-up in the legs, so-called edema swelling of the legs,” Bhatt said.

Signs of heart failure can even be spotted in your earlobes. A study out of Sweden found that earlobe crease in people younger than 40 was a sign of coronary artery disease in up to 80 percent of cases.

Spotting these subtle signs early, can keep your heart healthy longer.

There are about 550,000 new cases of congestive heart failure in the U.S every year and more than half the people who develop heart failure die within five years of diagnosis.