I went into a deep depression

Stephen tells his story:

‘Up until my early 20s I was fit, playing sport regularly. But when I started my own marketing business I didn’t have any time for sport. I’ve always eaten whatever I fancied, including lots of red meat. At 46, I weighed about 18 stone, but I’m tall so I wasn’t too concerned. I smoked 20 a day, but didn’t imagine my health was at risk.

‘One morning, I was walking to work when I felt an immense crushing pain in my chest. I sat on the pavement and phoned 999. Within five minutes I was in an ambulance on the way to hospital. I had an angiogram to find the blockage and watched on a big screen as the surgeon fitted a stent in an artery to my heart. As soon as the balloon was inflated the pain disappeared. I woke up in intensive care, and was in hospital for about a week.

My cholesterol was high

‘At a follow-up appointment my GP explained that my cholesterol was very high and the severe indigestion and terrible headaches I’d been experiencing two or three times a day were symptoms of unstable angina. He said I’d been ‘a heart attack waiting to happen’.

‘I was prescribed several pills and advised to make drastic lifestyle changes. But I went into a deep depression for about six months. I was afraid of going for a walk, of having sex, of lifting anything heavy. I stopped shaving and going out. And although the cardiac rehabilitation team encouraged me to attend group sessions, I couldn’t bear being told what to do and felt totally resistant to change. I didn’t stop smoking and ate anything and everything, so my weight spiralled to 22 stone.

‘Two years later, just as my life was returning to normal, I had a second heart attack. This time, blood thinning medication dissolved the blockage so I didn’t need surgery. After 12 days in hospital I came home, and plunged into an even deeper, 12-month depression.

This time I took control

‘As I emerged from this depression, however, I realised it was time for me to take control. I gave up smoking and now swim for 30 to 45 minutes, twice per week. I have fruit and porridge for breakfast, snack on fruit instead of cakes and biscuits, and drink water and green tea instead of coffee. I have oily fish at least twice a week.

‘Best of all, I got myself a dog – and he needs plenty of exercise. We go out walking at least twice a day, whatever the weather. I know I need to lose weight as I’m still 22 stone, but at least I haven’t put any more on, and my cholesterol is back at a healthy level. Occasionally I’ll get a twinge in my chest, but apart from that I can honestly say I feel much better.