One day in February 2016, I was unloading the washing machine when I felt a tremendous pain in my jaw. I carried on with my housework, but began sweating uncontrollably. Then the pain moved into my chest – and I knew something wasn’t right. ‘Call an ambulance,’ I shouted to my partner, William.
I was rushed into emergency surgery and a few hours later found myself in recovery, dazed and exhausted. The doctor explained to me that I’d had a heart attack. One of my arteries was blocked and they’d had to put in a stent to hold it open and restore the blood flow to part of my heart. After two days’ rest, I was discharged and was happy to be back home with William.
As part of my recovery process, I was referred to a six-week cardiac rehab programme. I was really shocked when the cardiac nurse told me my weight was a risk factor. I knew it had crept up due to other health problems and comfort eating. I weighed 16st 7lbs and, at 49, I’d assumed I still had lots of time to get my health back on track before I had to worry about developing a serious illness.
It was then that I decided I had to lose weight and become more active, to give my heart the best chance of recovery.
‘I’m going to join Slimming World,’ I said to William and, as always, he was really supportive. I was petrified at the thought of going to a group, but I decided that my fears were nothing compared to the possibility of another heart attack. Besides, everyone was so welcoming at group I quickly realised I had nothing to worry about.
As my Consultant talked me through the eating plan, I felt really excited to get going.
And I felt just as excited about starting to increase my activity levels. Once I’d lost a little weight, I decided to take part in Slimming World’s Body Magic programme, which helps members to gradually become more active.
I began walking for 15 minutes a day, and within a week my pace quickened and I was walking further and for longer. Eventually, with the doctors’ blessing, I was cycling daily and going to the gym three times a week. I also enjoyed regular Clubbercise and yoga classes. I felt like a new woman!
I loved going to group every week – the support from my Consultant and the other members was fantastic, and I got so many recipe ideas from our chats.
Before losing weight, I’d been dreading turning 50 – just walking to the shops had meant stopping half a dozen times. Now, though, I was happy, enjoying life and couldn’t wait to celebrate! I’ve lost 5st ½lb in total, going from a size 22 to a 12. I’m over the moon!
I’m lucky because the doctors say there’s no lasting damage to my heart, and that I’m doing the best possible thing by eating well and exercising. When I run and feel my heart thumping in my chest, it reminds me how things could have been so different. I’ll always be thankful that we called 999.
It sounds weird, but in a way I believe the heart attack did me the power of good. I’d never felt confident enough to exercise or join group – it was only realising how serious things had become that led me to make changes I wish I’d made years before. And now I’m hooked on my healthy lifestyle!