DARIO Gradi has spoken out about his experience of a serious heart problem following the launch of the Heart Valve Voice group.

The former Crewe Alexandra manager, now Director of Football at the club he has spent more than 30 years with, highlighted the dangers of heart disease and hopes that others will come forward if they are in any doubt of their health.

The Italian-born Alex legend, 72, has had two operations to replace a faulty aortic valve, most recently in 2013 which saw him take a year to recover properly.

Dario said: “People must put themselves out to get to the doctors but in return doctors must reach out to their patients – it’s too easy to get fobbed off.

“My advice is to heed the warning signs – if it’s difficult to get access to doctor you just have to try and try again.”

Although life as a football manager can be highly stressful at times, Gradi’s heart problem was strictly genetic and manifested since birth, insisting that it can affect anyone.

He first became apparent when he climbed the stairs to the top of the stand to do post-match commentary and noticed that he ran out of breath easily – a common symptom of heart valve disease.

Other warning signs for the heart problem include chest pains, tiredness, dizziness and feeling older than your age.

“For my first operation I was only away from the club for about four weeks – really it was almost like having a tooth out but obviously it was worse at the time,” he added.

“I went to sleep and when I woke up my chest was sore – obviously because they sawed it open. I had to walk around with pillow attached to my chest which was the only inconvenience really.

“I’m lucky enough have routine checks anyway and I feel very privileged to be able to access the club doctor quickly but not everyone has that.

“I see the doctor at least once a fortnight as he comes to games – if I didn’t have that easy access I wouldn’t have bothered.”

Heart Valve Voice is the UK’s first group of heart valve experts and patients that have come together to try and tackle the problem.

Around one million people over the age of 65 in the UK are thought to suffer from heart disease but only three percent of over 60s, who are most likely to suffer, are worried about it.

Professor Ben Bridgewater, Heart Valve Voice Chair and Consultant Cardiac Surgeon said: “Heart valve disease can have catastrophic consequences if the symptoms are mistaken or simply put down to being a sign of ageing.

“At the moment many people are referred to surgery too late. It is important that we push for earlier diagnosis and treatment.”

For further information and advice visit heartvalvevoice.co.uk.