Just read the tragic news about Steve Worland, he's the second well known mountain bike rider to drop of a heart attack in the last couple of months.
This post is addressed directly at those of us "of a certain age" i.e. 35+, hopefully some of you will take it to heart and act on it.
In 2007 I had an Myocardial Infarction (MI) aka a heart attack at the age of 37. It wasn't a biggie (thank god) but it was a hell of a wake up call.
Like you lot I thought I was fit, I certainly was very active (cycling, swimming, hillwalking etc) and my diet was excellent. But one friday at work I started to feel unwell, nothing I could pin my finger on just "not right" if you get what I mean.
I decided to ring the GP and I was offered an appointment for the Monday, the receptionist asked "would that be OK?" and I hesitated, she then said "or I can give you an emergency appointment tonight". Normally I'd have been typically british male and gone for the Monday but something inside me said go for the emergency appointment.
At the appointed time I trundled down to the surgery, I got my wife (ex) to drive me (totally out of character!). Got in to see the doc and she said it was probably just a bug I'd caught but she'd like to do an ECG, as she was wiring me up she admitted that the ECG machine was new and she was looking for an excuse to play with it.
She took the first reading and went very, very pale. She took a second one and then scurried out of the room and returned seconds later with two other docs. A couple more reading later and I was in the back of an ambulance.
The long and the short of it was that I was diagnosed positive for an MI on the saturday, I'd missed all the symptoms, putting the constant left arm and shoulder ache down to previous serious sporting injuries and the fact that I was getting older.
I was in hospital for 2 weeks, I had angioplasty and had a single stent inserted in the artery in the back of my left ventricle that was 100% occluded. I was given a cocktail of drugs and told to take up bowling... unfortunately the NHS treats all heart attack patients as if they are pensioners (which to be fair most are) 37yo MTB riding rally navigators do not compute.
Anyway the UNDERLYING cause was the fact that my cholesterol was through the roof (8.9) in the priceless words of my cardiologist
"any higher and we'll be able to shove you in a net and hang you out for the birds to peck for fat!"
I was suffering from an undiagnosed condition called Hypercolestimia where my genetic cocktail means I overproduce cholesterol.
Why was it undiagnosed because I had never had my cholesterol checked, I wasn't a risk, in fact I was as far away from a risk as you could get.
Top and bottom of it is if you are over 35;
1)GET YOUR CHOLESTEROL CHECKED! - it doesnt matter if you are built like a bombay racing snake and ride 100 miles a day... cholesterol is NOT wholly dependant on lifestyle and body shape. Oh and don't take NO from your GP for an answer, pester them.
2)DON'T IGNORE ACHES AND PAINS - particularly in your chest, back and left arm. this can include shooting pains into your jaw, pins and needles in your fingers of your left hand. It could be nothing or it could be a warning.
3)LISTEN TO YOUR BODY - GET IT CHECKED OUT IF IN DOUBT - the NHS are quite adamant on this they would far rather you came in with half a dozen false alarms than you drop suddenly and need the jumpleads applied - apparently its far more cost effective. You are not wasting their time, you are not a hypochondriac. 50% of MIs don't stop to take prisoners.
I got lucky, very lucky I got a warning, Ten years later I'm still here, I'm now fitter than I ever was and able to EVERYTHING I used to be able to do before the MI (truth be told I'm doing more). Early diagnosis is the key.
Okay the medication for the rest of your life is a pain, experience has taught me that the BetaBlockers and ACE inhibitors do me no favours at all so after consulting the cardio specialists I'm off them. The low dose asprin thins my blood to the point that a minor shaving nick ends up like the aftermath of the texas chainsaw massacre and if a fall of the bike I'm black and blue for weeks (could be a plus as I look far more heroic). I'm on a high dose of statins and these really work, my cholesterol is around 3.8. There are some side effects but I honestly cant notice them - I possibly get more fatigued but thats cured by going out and riding.
Please lads think on what I have (somewhat) incoherently written and lets try and stop some of these tragedies... not all of then can be prevented but some can and if this save one life then so much the better.