1.4 million people in England suffer from angina, 300,000 have heart attacks and more than 110,000 die as a result of heart problems every year.

Several organisations in Sussex exist to help people reduce the risk of developing heart disease and another supports people who have been through the trauma of a heart bypass operation.

Tony Plumb from Lancing runs the Martlets branch of the British Cardiac Patients' Association, better known as the Zipper Club (the name comes from the scar that patients are left with following a heart operation).

Mr Plumb says it is vital to provide support and up-todate information and advice for heart patients following the operation.

He said: "We like to speak to people both before and after their surgery so there is a constant network of support.

"Not everyone needs help but some patients find their experience is daunting and frightening.

"They may lose their confidence and feel alone and isolated. It helps to talk to someone who has had a similar experience."

The group is also committed to helping to save lives by supplying portable heart defibrillator machines.

The small, electronic devices deliver electric shocks to cardiac-arrest victims to improve their chance of survival.

Step-by-step instructions are provided on voice prompts.

The machine analyses the heart's activity then instructs the user to deliver a shock only if a rhythm is detected that might respond.

The machines are becoming increasingly common in shopping centres and GP's surgeries and clinics.

Staff at the Bluebell Railway Railway at Sheffield Park near Uckfield have recently been trained to use one.

As well as making sure treatment is available, there are many ways to help reduce the danger of developing heart disease in the first place.

Healthy eating is important. Too much saturated fat from red meat, biscuits, cakes, chips and dairy products can clog up the arteries and put a strain on the heart.

Fish, poultry and vegetables are better alternatives.

Lewes GP Michael Armstrong says regular exercise is essential for a healthy heart.

"I am not talking about over-exerting yourself. The last thing the heart needs is a person suddenly overdoing the exercise after years of not doing any.

"Even something as simple as a walk every day will do some good, as will a gentle run. Swimming is also useful."

The British Heart Foundation says physical exercise halves the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Among people who suffer heart attacks, those who have been active are twice as likely to survive as those who have not.

Physical exercise as part of a rehabilitation programme following an attack reduces the risk of dying by 20 per cent.

It also reduces the risk of having a stroke, lowers the blood pressure and cuts the risk of developing diabetes.

Doctors also recommend stopping smoking, one of the main causes of heart disease.

If people in the UK did not smoke, about 10,000 fewer men and women of working age would die from heart attacks each year.

Dr Armstrong said: "From the moment you stop smoking the risk of heart attack starts to reduce and is halved after one year of giving up."

Health authorities across the county have set up "smoking cessation" clinics which have already helped hundreds of people give up.

Moderate drinking between one and two units of alcohol a day is generally seen as acceptable for the heart but too much alcohol will cause problems.

One unit of alcohol equals half a pint of ordinary beer, a small glass of wine or a pub measure of spirits.

The official advice is that men should drink no more than four units a day and a total of no more than 21 units of alcohol a week.

Women should drink no more than three units a day and a total of no more than 14 units a week.

More details are available from the British Heart Foundation website on www.bhf.org.uk