How I got back to fitness

Roger talks about his path back to fitness after a heart by-pass operation

 ‘I didn’t smoke, I wasn’t overweight, I was leading a healthy lifestyle and eating well. Over Christmas, I suffered what I thought was heartburn, and when the pains became more regular in the January – when exercising – I went to see my GP. My blood pressure was high and my cholesterol level was 7.2.

‘I went for a treadmill test at the hospital and they stopped the test before I’d been running for even a minute. Realising something might be seriously wrong with me was a huge shock. They immediately put me on beta-blockers to lower my blood pressure, and statins to reduce my cholesterol. I was booked in for an angiogram, where they insert a catheter into an artery in the groin to explore what’s happening in the heart. I had three severely constricted arteries and a triple heart bypass was booked for June. The consultant told me that left untreated, it would probably lead to a heart attack at some stage.

‘I later discovered my grandfather had died from a heart attack in his 60s. I’d never realised that this genetic legacy, probably exacerbated by my mum’s rich cooking, could be life-threatening.

Emotionally, it took longer to recover

‘I was only off work for two months after the operation, but emotionally, it took a lot longer to recover. Despite the fact that the operation was successful, I was terrified that activity would put too much strain on my heart.

‘What helped to allay my fears was the Cardiac Rehab programme, especially the exercise classes. It was really helpful to meet others who’d been through the same thing, and getting advice about how to exercise safely.

‘Since my diagnosis, I’ve made lots of positive lifestyle changes. I check the saturated fat content of everything. I eat less meat and cheese, and only occasionally have biscuits and cakes. I have muesli for breakfast, and I’ve learnt to cook some great Middle Eastern fish and vegetarian recipes.

‘A year ago, I moved from a town to a small village. Plus I’ve gone down to working a four-day week, which leaves more time for hobbies.

‘After the operation, I walked for half an hour, five times a week. At the end of 2010, I started cycling, which I do for an hour twice a week, plus lots of walking. I’d thought physical activity was a thing of the past for me…but it most certainly isn’t!’

My advice…

‘Take care of your heart even if you don’t think you need to. Trust that it will get sorted out if you listen to your doctors, go for Cardiac Rehab and make the effort to change. I’m proof it’s possible to live a life that’s as fulfilling as before, if not more so.’