They might not seem like connected events, but Valentine’s Day and National Heart Awareness Month have more in common than you think.

Of course, hearts are at the centre of both, but these important dates are also great opportunities to care for those around you – and yourself. To help spread the love, we’ve come up with some tell-tale signs to watch out for to keep you and those close to you safe.

Good to know…

• A healthy heart is around the size of a person’s fist and beats around 70 times a minute. By the end of a long life, your heart could have beaten up to 3.5 billion times!
• The first heart cell starts to beat as early as 4 weeks.
• Cancer in the heart is extremely rare because heart cells stop dividing when we’re young.
• A woman’s average heartbeat is faster than a man’s by 8 beats a minute.

Heart disease: the facts

Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in the UK, with 73,000 deaths caused by coronary heart disease (CHD) alone every year. That’s why it’s so important to know all the facts, signs and symptoms, to keep your heart in top condition.

First thing’s first, there are actually many different forms of heart disease and knowing the difference between them could be life-saving.

These conditions are collectively known as cardiovascular disease and include:


One of the most common forms of heart disease, CHD occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart is blocked, putting excess strain on the muscle. If left unattended, CHD can lead to angina, heart attack and heart failure.

Silent ischemia

Similar to CHD, in this condition, oxygen flow to the heart is limited. Silent ischemic disease is a term given to any condition that involved the narrowing of heart arteries that can block the flow of blood around the muscle. It can cause angina but often presents no symptoms. Because of this, it’s important to monitor heart health in order to lower your risk of other problems, such as a heart attack.


Angina is the name given to chest pain caused by heart issues. It can be caused by the conditions laid out above, as well as other factors that cause the narrowing of blood vessels such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.


Heart rhythm problems affect 2 million people a year in the UK. There are five main types of arrhythmia:

  1. Atrial fibrillation – an irregular and faster than normal heart beat;
  2. Supraventricular tachycardia – periods of a faster than normal heart rate when at rest;
  3. Bradycardia – a slower than normal heartbeat;
  4. Heart block – a slower than normal heartbeat which can cause sufferers to collapse;
  5. Ventricular fibrillation – this is a rare arrhythmia characterised by a rapid and disorganised heartbeat that leads to loss of consciousness and sudden death if not treated immediately.

Knowing the types of heart disease is important to help you be aware of the dangers. It’s also important to consider the following facts:

• As we age, we become more at risk of heart disease, and men are slightly more likely to be affected than women.
• The heart is a complex organ, so there are many different issues that can affect it. If you experience heart palpitations (a fluttering sensation or the feeling that your heart is skipping a beat), shortness of breath or pain in the chest, upper back or arms, this could signal a heart or blood vessel problem. In these cases, it’s always best to see a health professional.
• The heart is a unique organ to each person and so signs of any problems are likely to vary too. It’s worth bearing in mind that female symptoms are different to male ones.

Heart attack: the symptoms

In the case of a heart attack, women are less likely to experience chest pain and related symptoms but more likely to experience the following:

  1. Breathlessness;
  2. Dizziness and fainting;
  3. Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort;
  4. Pain in one or both arms;
  5. Sweating;
  6. Nausea and vomiting;
  7. Unusual fatigue

Men tend to experience:

  1. Crushing chest pain;
  2. Sweating;
  3. Nausea;
  4. Heartburn like discomfort in the stomach.

February is the month of sharing and caring, and when it comes to heart health, nothing is more important! Make sure everyone is doing what they can to take care of their heart this February, and all year round, and share this with your loved ones. If you have any concerns, it’s always best to contact your doctor or a health professional. 

Page last reviewed on 04/02/2019

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