“In my 20s and 30s I never thought about my heart health. I stopped exercising when I left school, my diet was pretty bad and I was a smoker. By my late 30s I had gained quite a bit of weight, I couldn’t climb the stairs without getting out of breath and my legs were swollen. I didn’t realize this meant I was retaining fluid which is a classic symptom of heart failure.
“A few years later, my breathlessness was getting worse and my legs were an unusually pale colour. But I still didn’t go to my doctor … I think I was scared of what he’d say. By the next year I was coughing a lot and I felt like I couldn’t breathe when I was lying in bed. I finally went to see the doctor who diagnosed me with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and kidney disease. Shortly after this I was diagnosed with progressive heart failure and my heart was working at only 30% of it function. That dropped to 20% within a couple of months.
“In hospital, a cardiologist told me that I was in serious trouble, so as well as taking my medications I stopped smoking and drinking, and started eating healthily. Within a few months I was able to go for short walks and that progressed quite quickly to longer exercise sessions.
“My family had a history of heart disease but I was determined not to let this condition get the better of me. Now I no longer need the prescription medicines and heart health has become a way of life for me.”