For all the cuddly Valentine’s hearts now cluttering up shop windows and supermarket aisles across the land, what February really needs to focus on is another type of heart; your actual heart. 

Because at the start of National Heart Month, the British Heart Foundation are once again talking about the importance of heart health; and you really need to listen.

Heart attacks are one of the most common reasons why a person requires emergency medical treatment, and the BHF estimates that around 50,000 men and 32,000 women have a heart attack each year in England.

Or put another way, every five minutes, across the UK, someone will have a heart attack.

The figures are terrifying; as is the unbearable thought of you being that “someone”, and having no idea what to do…

Which is why Julie Ward, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, is on hand to explain what to do should the unthinkable happen.

What actually is a heart attack?

“A heart attack happens when your heart muscle is starved of oxygen-rich blood. It can be life threatening and can also cause damage to your heart muscle and in some cases lead to heart failure.

How do I know the symptoms?

“The symptoms of a heart attack vary from one person to another.

“You may feel tightness, heaviness or pain in your chest. This may spread to your arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach. For some people, the pain or tightness is severe, while other people just feel uncomfortable.

“As well as having chest pain or discomfort you may become sweaty, feel light-headed or dizzy, or become short of breath. You may also feel nauseous or vomit.”

And what do I do about it?

“The first thing to do if you think you or anyone else is having a heart attack is to phone 999 immediately for an ambulance.

“Don’t delay calling 999 because you are uncertain or don't want to make a fuss. The sooner you get emergency treatment for a heart attack, the greater your chances of survival.”

Can I do anything while I wait?

“[After calling 999], you should then sit and rest while you wait for the ambulance to arrive.

“If you are not allergic to aspirin and have some next to you, or if there is someone with you who can fetch them for you, chew one adult aspirin tablet (300mg). Do not get up and look around for an aspirin as this may put unnecessary strain on your heart.

“It is important to note that if there is no aspirin nearby then the person should stay with you, they should not leave you to go searching for this medication.”

What happens when the ambulance arrives?

The paramedics will examine you and monitor your heart rate and blood pressure, do an electrocardiogram (ECG) in the ambulance, assess your symptoms and medical history, give pain relief if needed and oxygen if your oxygen level is too low, give you aspirin if not given already and transfer you to the most suitable hospital.

Wear it. Beat it

Show your support for the British Heart Foundation on February 6  and join the nation in wearing red and hosting an event to fund life-saving heart research. Sign up now for your FREE fundraising kit filled with everything you need at: bhf.org.uk/red  #WearItBeatIt