Getting to the heart of the matter - Help us help you

Getting to the heart of the matter - Help us help you

A woman looks concerned as she leans against a wall. She has eerie hands wrapped around her chest to symbolise a tightening feeling around her chest which can be a warning sign of a heart attack.

If you suspect you are having a heart attack, call 999.

A heart attack is a serious medical emergency in which the blood supply to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot.

While most chest pain is not a sign of anything serious you should seek immediate medical help if you think you’re having a heart attack.

Heart attack symptoms include:

  • sudden chest pain that spreads to your arms, back, neck or jaw
  • makes your chest feel tight or heavy
  • shortness of breath, feeling weak/sick/lightheaded or an overwhelming feeling of anxiety for more than a few minutes.

Early diagnosis of a heart attack is essential for treatment and survival.

Chest pain can also be a sign of other serious and underlying health conditions such as a chest infection or other respiratory issues, heart arrhythmia and palpitations (an irregular heartbeat) or acute abdominal pain – which all require urgent attention and treatment.

In the East Midlands region alone, we received 48,783 emergency calls throughout 2021 for patients experiencing chest pains or heart problems as being the chief medical complaint.

Anyone can experience the symptoms of a heart attack. The age group where we received the most emergency calls in relation to heart and chest pain complaints was 71-80-year-olds, with a total of 9,881 calls received last year. This was followed by 51-60-year-olds (7,992 calls) and the 61-70 age group (7,616 calls)

19,605 out of the overall total number of emergency calls in 2021 for chest pains and heart problems were experienced by women (40.1%), with angina and abnormal heart rhythms or palpitations being identified as the main issue following a clinical assessment by the ambulance crew on scene. These were the main serious health issues present in male patients too.

Whether you happen to be five-years-old or 69, you may potentially have to ring 999 one day for yourself or someone else who is experiencing heart attack symptoms. Jo Parkinson is one of our 999 call handlers based at our Lincoln control room and she explains what to expect from us when you ring for an ambulance.

While the risk of having a heart attack increases with age, they can happen to anyone at any age. In our region 3,343 people (6.8%) of people aged 17-30 required an ambulance response due to reports of chest pain and heart problems last year.

Actions we can all take to prevent the risk of having a heart attack include not smoking, doing regular exercise which is good for both our physical and mental health, and moderating alcohol consumption.