More than 35,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in the UK and Republic of Ireland each year, making it all the more important to keep your heart healthy. Weight can be a major contributing factor in heart and circulatory diseases, and the good news is there’s a lot you can do to reduce your risk.
Our Man of the Year 2021, Ken McLeod, is all too aware of how carrying excess weight can impact your health. After years of struggling with his size, Ken experienced a cardiac arrest that almost cost him his life. To support World Heart Day, Ken reveals how his Slimming World group helped him fight back from the brink and discover a healthy future.
It was the most terrifying experience of my life. I was walking down the street when, all of a sudden, I started to feel unwell – it felt like something was crawling up my left leg. I’d had a terrible pain in my calf all morning, and now I realised something was very wrong. The next thing I knew, I was holding on to a wall to stop myself from falling. Then, as I was rushed to A&E in an ambulance, I lost consciousness.
When I woke up, I found myself in an intensive care ward. I was told that I’d experienced a pulmonary embolism that had caused my heart to go into cardiac arrest. Thanks to the quick actions of the paramedics, I survived the ordeal, but my heart had stopped for 10 minutes.
MORE FOR MEMBERS: If you’re overweight, losing 10% of your weight helps to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol, along with risk of heart disease – find out how here.
I spent nine days in hospital, and while I was there, a consultant suggested I could benefit from slimming down. It didn’t come as a surprise. I knew my weight had crept up since I’d retired from active police service. I weighed close to 23st and I continued to put weight on even during my recovery.
It got to the point where I struggled to walk more than a few metres before I’d be gasping for breath. When my wife, Jeanette, and I took a holiday to Scotland in July 2019, she’d bound up every hill we came across, but I had to keep stopping to catch my breath. That’s when I knew something had to change. When we got home, I looked up the details of my local Slimming World group and Jeanette offered to come with me for support.
My Consultant, Angie, was so kind and considerate, and she really helped to put me at ease. Getting inspiration and ideas from my group, I started trying out new recipes like chilli con carne, chicken and bacon risotto and chicken tikka kebabs.
Within a few months, I’d lost 2st and I noticed I didn’t feel as breathless when I was moving around. I began building up my activity levels by following Slimming World’s Body Magic activity programme. I started off by walking short distances and gradually going further and faster, exploring the countryside and seaside paths near my home.
I used to feel like I was getting old before my time, but that’s changed now. I can do all the things I enjoy, like gardening and tinkering with my cars in the garage. Almost losing my life was horrific, but it had a silver lining in that it motivated me to lose weight. And I’m so glad it did.
Your heart-health checklist
Caroyln Pallister, registered dietician and Slimming World’s nutrition and health policy manager, shares her expert tips to maintain a healthy heart.
✅ Lose weight to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
✅ Incorporate regular exercise into your routine.
✅ Drink less alcohol – and keeping your intake within government recommended limits.
✅ Enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables – go for 5 a day or more!
✅ Reduce the amount of salt you eat– it’s good for your overall health and your blood pressure.
✅ Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods to lower your risk of heart disease.
✅ Enjoy two portions of fish a week – one of which should be oily fish to support heart health.
MORE FOR MEMBERS: You can learn more about how Food Optimising can help your heart health – and get expert advice to reduce your risk of heart disease – on our exclusive member website and app