People across North Devon have been urged by hospital staff to share the message that heart failure sucks by taking part in the Suck a Lemon Challenge.

With around 1,000 people in North Devon known to be living with the condition and the actual figure expected to be double this, North Devon District Hospital staff are keen to raise the profile as part of Heart Failure Awareness Week this week (May 6-12).

The heart failure nursing team are leading the charge by highlighting a new social media craze, the Suck a Lemon Challenge, being promoted by the Pumping Marvellous support charity.

Similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge, all people have to do is cut a wedge of raw lemon, take a big bite and film their reaction before making a donation, posting their video on social media with the hashtag #SuckaLemonChallenge and nominating someone else to take the challenge.

Staff at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust from the chief executive on down have been filming their own challenges and posting them daily on the trust Facebook page throughout the week.

Dr Chris Gibbs, chief cardiac physiologist John Cooke and Angela Tithecott, lead nurse heart failure and cardiac support services, with some of the heart scanning equipment at North Devon District Hospital. Picture: Tony GussinDr Chris Gibbs, chief cardiac physiologist John Cooke and Angela Tithecott, lead nurse heart failure and cardiac support services, with some of the heart scanning equipment at North Devon District Hospital. Picture: Tony Gussin

Often called a 'Cinderella syndrome', heart failure is an underfunded condition that costs the NHS more than £2billion a year.

Angela Tithecott, lead nurse in heart failure and cardiac support services at NDDH said it was the largest cause of hospital admission for the over 65s and urged people to be aware of the four main symptoms that could indicate someone has the condition.

These are - shortness of breath, fatigue, ankle swelling and weight gain.

She said: "There's a simple blood test that can be used to determine whether heart failure is underlying these symptoms and you can get that from your GP."

North Devon is one of five cardiac hospital centres in Devon and Cornwall, with various cardiac teams as well as two consultant cardiologists Dr Chris Gibbs and Dr Dushen Tharmaratnam.

The trust has also just invested in new heart scanning equipment and there are plans to buy more.

Poppy Brooks, heart failure clinical nurse specialist, added: "People need to be aware of these symptoms and it needs to be on their radar, otherwise by the time they are aware they have to be taken into hospital and if we can treat them early we can avoid that.

"Here at the heart failure team we love our jobs - people invite us into their homes, we get a real relationship with them. Nationally we work with Pumping Marvellous and other organisations that support us to make sure we are up to date and providing the most advanced treatments."