Right lads, grab a brew and pull up a seat…. I'm going to be blunt.
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.Posted 3 years agobolMember
Very good and well timed post. I must admit, I was thinking rather depressedly that if this can happen to people with the lifestyle of messiah and Steve Worland, there isn’t a lot that the likes of me can do to avoid it. A well put kick up the arse to take a proactive approach. Thanks.Posted 3 years ago
Thanks for the kick up the arse, been meaning to get a ‘well man’ health check for a while now. My last one was 6yrs ago & whilst the nurse said i was ‘disgustingly healthy’ and my cholesterol was as low as can be healthy it was still a while ago.
mods, can you make this a sticky please? Lets not have another Steve Worland.Posted 3 years ago
So, what is the main cause of high cholesterol?
Diet/Lifestyle is the main
Being a bloke ramps it right up
or like me you have an underlying genetic predisposition to it check your family history, if all your blood relatives shuffled off this mortal coil because of cardiac issues and / or strokes then you can take a fairly good bet that you are a ticking time bomb
Yeah I forgot high cholesterol is also bad for strokes too, same underlying reason that arteries get furred up and then a clot or a chunk of glop from your artery breaks off and blocks an artery in a vital place. i.e. heart attack or strokePosted 3 years agodannybgoodeSubscriber
Great post and some valuable information.
I am lucky that my work pays for a private check every two years. bearing in mind I am not the healthiest of people really I have the lungs of a 25 year old (am 38), very very slightly overweight according to the official measurements, cholesterol of 4.5 and a perfect ECG trace.
Really pissed my wife off.
That said I wouldn’t have known all of this without a check…Posted 3 years agowrightysonMember
Just about to head off to bed and came across this post. My poppa (grandad) who was the cleanest living most sensible chap who had the odd glass of red was killed by cholesterol and a gammy heart. As a kid I remember him doing 2 widths of the swimming baths under water no bother. His lungs were huge and he was fit! 7 i tell you 7 heart attacks before he succumbed! The last one was in hospital, he was my hero and I still miss him 20 yrs later!Posted 3 years agobutcherMember
I was thinking about starting a similar topic myself. No direct experience personally, but I’ve seen these threads on cycling forums far too often. It does make you wonder, and we can only benefit from a better awareness of what to look for and what preventative measures to take.
Is it mainly cholesterol that causes heart attacks? (I suddenly realise now I know very, very little about the subject, and at the grand age of 35, I’d like to know more!)Posted 3 years agoduntstickMember
Hmmm, I too am shocked and saddened, too many healthy people going before their time. Full MOT, blood checks etc (which I’ve never had though considered the norm here in France) to follow. I never go to the docs, but it won’t hurt to check stuff out.
Hope others follow suit.Posted 3 years agoNZColSubscriber
Good post.Posted 3 years ago
Much like you I was a whippet, really fit and in the course of a std medical was told my cholesterol was high. I wasn’t fat or lazy and was naive to think that I was ok.
Changed diet not massively, now have gone to it being nice and low.
A friend died of a heart attack on me and frankly it scared me now I am 40
Agree in all senses
And also check your balls while you’re at it !DaveyBoyWonderMember
See if your workplace can organise some kind of healthcheck. We were all offered one this week just gone – blood pressure, cholestrol, body fat index, height, weight, glucose levels etc. Thankfully I flew through it all but for the sake of a pin prick in your finger and waiting 2 minutes for the result, its well, well, well worth it.Posted 3 years agoluffy105Subscriber
OP talks a lot of sense. 39 here and found out by accident that I had the same genetic problem as op and also 8.9. Not helped by being a fat bugger and was a heavy smoker. Am righting those wrongs now and feel much better for it but have had a real wake up call.Posted 3 years ago
To lots of people having a heart attack is a death sentence (metaphorically and in reality) to me it was a life sentence… which is a double edged sword
life sentence in that I’m committed to taking medication for the rest of my life and the inherent side effects, when I exercise I wear a heart rate monitor so I don’t max above 170BPM. and.. and this may be slightly morbid – I know what is probably going to kill me in the end.
life sentence in that I have been given a second chance so I’m just going for it. My prognosis is good-ish long term, I know that my life has probably been foreshortened by a significant amount, my heart is damaged, one area of heart muscle is damaged beyond repair (gene / stem cell therapy may fix this but its still experimental). But if I stay fit, take the medication then there is no reason why I cant continue doing everything I want to.
After my MI I went through a significant period of depression and paranoia, I underwent psychotherapy and was prescribed anti-depressants.. those were just props. The paranoia is insidious though every time your heart skips a beat or beats hard you panic, every time you have a twinge in your chest you think … is this it.. but you get through it, you realise that this is just normal, your heart is just a muscle it’s not an atomic clock, it does all sorts of weird stuff. The breakthrough for me was kicking the anti-depressants into touch seven years ago, since then I’ve never looked back.
BUT what I have developed is healthy paronoia and I get regularly checked out… the biggest lesson I learned was not to ignore the aches and pains from the sports injuries,,, my left shoulder is mince due to a motorsport incident (I effectively “carried” a rally car door for 24 miles popping my shoulder out of joint every time we hit a bump) my neck too is fubar’d due to rallying accidents so there is constant low level pain exactly like angina. I undergo a cardiac stress test every year where they drop me on a running machine, wire me up and try and induce an MI by making me run! last year they picked up an abnormality and they discovered that the original stent I’d had inserted (a stent is a metal spring type device that opens a blocked artery up) was furring up. They whipped me in and inserted another stent in the same place, I was back up and on a bike 3 days later.
Anyhoo I’m forgetting where I’m going with this.. .point is even if you are diagnosed with a problem its not the end of everything for me it was the beginning.Posted 3 years agosuburbanreubenMember
Jock is right.Go and get checked out! Knowing any potential problems in advance is the key, not just for the heart but for anything else. Get full blood tests, cholesterol, PSA (prostate), the works.
I’m pretty lucky; 8 years ago felt dodgy, missus dragged me to docs, chol level of 9.6. Now 4 ish with reasonably healthy eating, but 5 stents and a double bypass 4 years ago. Fortunately no heart attack!
I’ll say it again; Go and get checked out! THey have the heart sorted. It’s only a simple pump!
Idon’tknow how Jock got on a bike three daysafter an angioplasty. For two weeks my balls were like this:Posted 3 years agobinnersSubscriber
So if you race whippets have problems, does this mean us fat bastards are ok?
Actually… I think I know the answer to that. Thanks for the post. There was an interesting article in the guardian not long back about blokes of… Ahem… a certain age taking up activities like cycling, but still carrying on with the weekend drinking and casual drug use they’d done previously, and this seriously bumping up the chance of heart attacksPosted 3 years agoMidlandTrailquestsGrahamMember
A timely reminder for me too.
I was due to have minor surgery last year at the age of 50 and it got cancelled at the last minute (literally, I had the lace at the back gown on and everything) because my blood pressure was too high.
Various blood tests and ECGs, and all they could find was my Cholesterol very slightly above the normal range, nothing to worry about.
I was put on blood pressure tablets and given the usual advice;
Eat less meat. I eat none.
Drink less alcohol. I drink none.
Stop smoking. I never started.
Eat less salt. I never add it to cooking and rarely eat foods with it in.
Do more exercise. More !?
I was put on tablets and told to come back in a couple of weeks.
Went back, they upped the dose.
Repeat several times until I’m on a high dose of two different tablets.
Eventually got my BP down and had the operation.
However, that’s where this is a timely reminder for me.Posted 3 years ago
Once I’d had the operation I thought, that’s it, I can stop taking the tablets now.
I really ought to get back in to the routine of taking them every day.
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