June 13, 2018
Studies by The British Heart Foundation (the BHF) show that at least 12 people under the age of 35 die each week in the UK from a heart condition they didn’t know they had. Often these conditions are genetic, and have been present since birth but for some reason are only triggered in later life.
I was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson White (WPW) syndrome in 2014. It was a condition I had apparently had since birth, but had decided after 34 years it was going to start up out of nowhere. It was a pure accident, I actually went to see the doctor about an ankle injury and just mentioned I had been having heart palpitations for a month or two for seemingly no reason. Six months later I was having an operation that has, to date, fixed the problem.
My condition wasn’t life-threatening, but feeling your heart beating in excess of 200 beats per minute and being told you have a heart condition is still pretty scary. Questions race through your mind – can I still play sport (overlooking a lack of talent!)? Will I have to give up unhealthy food or even worse, alcohol? More seriously, if I have children, will it be passed on to them?
Thankfully, the answers to the first two questions, were yes and no respectively, although it was suggested I might want to make a couple of lifestyle changes. The answer to the third question though was ‘we don’t know, you’ll have to wait and see’.
It’s why organisations like the BHF have British Heart Week from 7th June – 15th June (yes, I know that’s more than a week!) to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy heart. They have also set up funding for screening for heart conditions so that people known to have had a genetic heart condition in their immediate family can be tested to discover whether the condition has been passed on or not.
Even if you don’t have a genetic condition, taking care of your heart is clearly important. Making slight changes to diet, ensuring you get even small amounts of exercise each day, and keeping stress levels down can all help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Equally important, is making sure you see your GP if you think there is anything slightly wrong with your heart. As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’ and from personal experience, I’m glad that I mentioned (albeit in passing) my symptoms to my GP.
About the author
Liam Kenealy is the head of Employment Law at Spencers.
Liam is an experienced Employment Lawyer who has been advising both individuals and businesses on a wide range of employment and HR issues including unfair dismissal, discrimination and breach of contract cases since 2007.