If we can do it – so can you!

If we can do it, so can you!

Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of doing things differently? Meet three inspiring heart attack survivors who’ve made changes and found a new lease of life

1. Adam1, 55, managed to give up smoking

‘I’d smoked 20 to 30 cigarettes a day from the age of 18, and I’d been in a stressful job for over 25 years. But because there’s no history of heart disease in my family and I wasn’t overweight, it didn’t occur to me that I was at risk of a heart attack.

‘In 2007, I was at work and had some strange pains in my chest, jaw and back. It felt like a trapped nerve in my arm. A colleague drove me to hospital and I was told I was having a heart attack. I had two stents inserted into a blood vessel in my heart and I was in hospital for seven days. I went into shock and felt vulnerable and emotional. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.

‘Once I got home, I felt like I’d been given a second chance and knew I had to stop smoking.

‘It wasn’t easy because I was giving up something I’d enjoyed. At first I started eating more, and put on over a stone. My smoker friends supported me by not smoking in front of me. What also helped was that whereas before I used to skip meals and grab a cigarette and a coffee for lunch, I began to spend my cigarette money on healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruit.

‘Now, if I ever feel tempted to smoke, I remember how much I hated being in hospital. I also think about my grandchildren –  I really want to see them grow up!’

1Names have been changed

2. Michael, 59, managed to stop drinking

‘I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and raised cholesterol in my mid-30s. I took early retirement due to a painful joint condition. I drank home-brewed beer in the evenings and I put on weight.

‘One afternoon, I felt an agonising pain in my chest. My son took me to A&E, where they told me I was having a heart attack. I was in hospital for five days, after which I was put on a six-week cardiac rehabilitation programme.

‘Since then, I’ve been doing low-impact exercise classes, going to the gym four or five times a week and eating healthily. The biggest change I made was to throw away all my beer-making equipment, so I’ve stopped drinking every evening.

‘Giving up alcohol means I can think more clearly. My cholesterol is down to 3.4, I’ve lost a stone and a half in weight – and my beer belly! Physically, I’ve never felt better, so it’s easy to stick to my healthy new lifestyle.

‘Having a heart attack helped me rediscover my love of life. Ultimately, it was a blessing in disguise.’

3. Philip, 62, managed to lose weight

‘I was diagnosed with high cholesterol at the age of 56 and I’ve been overweight all my life. In the back of my mind, I knew I was at risk of a heart attack, but it still came as a huge shock when I had one.

‘I’ve always finished off any food that’s around. I’ve got a particular weakness for bread, cheese and biscuits.

‘After I went to Cardiac Rehab, I knew I had to make some changes to my diet. It wasn’t easy. One thing that’s helped is using a smaller plate so the portions are smaller, and changing my shopping habits. I don’t buy cheese or biscuits any more – I can’t be tempted to snack on it if it’s not there!

‘Now I see food in terms of its fat content, and I’m eating lots of fish, seafood, vegetables and salad. For breakfast I have porridge and low-fat yogurt. I eat very little meat and a lot less cheese than before.

‘What motivates me is that I’m steadily losing weight – nearly 2 stone so far. I’ve also joined a heart support group. We do exercise classes with a fantastic instructor who understands our needs. And it always helps to talk to other people who understand what you’re going through.’

More inspiration from people like you…

‘The best thing I did when I finished the cardiac rehabilitation programme was to buy a pedometer. Seeing how many steps you’ve walked in a day is really motivating.’

Bob, 67

‘I keep a plastic box of nuts and dried fruit in my desk at work, so whenever I’m tempted to snack, I can always nibble something healthy.’

Ed, 58

‘I’ve got a deal with my best friend that if I’m ever tempted to light up a cigarette, I can phone her so she can remind me why I really don’t want to have another heart attack.’ 

Jilly, 61

‘Now that I have porridge for breakfast every morning to help keep my cholesterol levels low, I don’t get hungry mid-morning. I’m saving all the money I’d have spent on coffees, pastries and chocolate bars to go on a mini-break with my partner.’ 

Sally, 53

‘It helps to use a smaller plate so my portions are smaller.’


Get more tips and inspiration to make lifestyle changes here