- The coach had chest pain but thought he ‘overexerted’ himself and ignored it
- Experts warn feeling dizzy, sick and getting pain are all heart attack symptoms
A 51-year-old cricket coach has told how he suffered a heart attack without even realising it.
Raj Nath, from Harrow, London, lived an active life, playing sports and teaching cricket in schools.
Despite not having the healthiest of diets, the father-of-two thought he was perfectly healthy.
When he started experiencing chest pains in April 2018, aged 46, he ‘brushed it off’ as him ‘overexerting’ himself.
However, when the pain spread to his left side days later, he was rushed to hospital and told he had suffered a heart attack.
Mr Nath had no idea that his blood pressure was high — a major cause of heart attacks — and is now urging people to get their health checked.
Mr Nath said his chest pain started on a Monday.
He told MailOnline: ‘I thought it was just a bit of pain, I would go home and take a paracetamol.’
However, after returning to his office following a cricket coaching session on Thursday, he sat down and ‘slumped’ in his chair.
After a concerned colleagues asked if he was okay, Mr Nath explained he had been suffering from chest pain, which all of a sudden began spreading down his left side.
He was taken to hospital, where they took his blood pressure and he underwent an ECG — a test that checks the heart’s rhythm and electrical activity. It shows whether someone is having a heart attack.
Doctors told Mr Nath he had high blood pressure but his ECG results were normal.
He admitted to having no idea about his blood pressure, as he had ‘never had it checked’ and had not visited the doctors in about 15 years.
‘I wouldn’t even go to the doctor for a common cold. We only go to the doctor when we need to go to the doctor. There is no engine light like in your car, that tells you to change this or that’, Mr Nath said.
Mr Nath was kept in hospital that night, during which time his heart stopped for two minutes.
Doctors were left bewildered after further tests, including an ultrasound, didn’t show that anything was wrong.
They sent him for an angiogram — an X-ray of the arteries, which can spot problems with the heart and blood vessels.
Doctors discovered Mr Nath had two blocked arteries.
He said: ‘I was on my own. I remember lying there in the hospital bed and I just felt all alone, and I just broke down.
‘I didn’t know how this could be happening to me — I had led an active life.
‘I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do the things I used to do. I had a fear that would not be able to coach.’
Chest pain and pain that spread to the arms are tell-tale signs of a heart attack, as is feeling sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath.
However, it’s possible to have a heart attack without experiencing these symptoms.
Around 100,000 Brits and 800,000 Americans suffer a heart attack every year.
Most are caused by coronary heart disease — when the arteries become narrow due to a build-up of fatty deposits.
Keeping active, maintaining a healthy weight and diet, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack, as does maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Five days after his heart attack, Mr Nath was fitted with two stents — fine metal mesh shaped cylinders which are inserted into the artery to widen them and stop blockages — and was able to go home two days later.
Doctors told him to change his eating habits to control his high cholesterol — which can narrow the blood vessels.
Mr Nath said: ‘I wasn’t eating healthy; I ate at irregular times. But I didn’t think that my eating would have that adverse effect.
SYMPTOMS OF A HEART ATTACK
A heart attack is a serious medical emergency and you should call 999 and ask for an ambulance if you suspect a heart attack.
It’s caused by the blood supply to the heart being suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot.
A lack of blood to the heart may seriously damage the heart muscle and can be life threatening.
- Chest pain– a feeling of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across your chest
- Pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
- An overwhelming feeling of anxiety (similar to a panic attack)
- Coughing or wheezing
The chest pain is often severe, but some people may only experience minor pain, similar to indigestion.
‘Doctors said to me my South Asian diet of mainly Indian food, my irregular eating pattern and weight had not helped my cholesterol.’
He said his heart attack and realisation of his unhealthy diet ‘kicked [him] into gear’ and encouraged him to look after himself.
He now tries to eat in ‘moderation’ and has learned to cook. However, he admitted that it can sometimes be hard at to resist the ‘rich’ and ‘heavy’ food, such as recently during Diwali.
Still active, the coach does a lot of walking and plays cricket at his local club in Chiswick.
Mr Nath has also had a phased return to work. His colleagues have been supportive and he now does less coaching and instead teaches cricket coaching.
He now stresses the importance of going to the doctors to get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked, especially for people over the age of 40.
He is involved in a campaign with HEART UK to help others in his situation understand how to best manage their cholesterol levels.
He said: ‘I know us men have a tendency of bottling it in and pride takes over. But people need to understand that it’s okay to talk, it’s okay to go and get yourself checked out.’
Michaela Nuttall, a cardiovascular nurse in London, said heart attacks do not always just present as chest pain.
She told MailOnline: ‘We have quite classic symptoms that we think about when we think about someone having a heart attack. That’s usually what we see in the media, people bending over clutching their chest with an impending sense of doom.
‘But that’s not what everybody’s heart attack feels like.’
Ms Nuttell said there are a whole range of symptoms from feeling dizzy, a burning sensation in the throat and experiencing pains at the back of the chest.
She said: ‘You might feel quite an indigestion feeling, you could feel like you’re having a cold sweat or you’re feeling fairly sweaty.’
She added: ‘Knowing your cholesterol level and getting your cholesterol reduced and knowing your blood pressure, getting your blood pressure reduced, can help prevent a heart attack.’
Getting your cholesterol checked is vital. That’s because a high cholesterol can lead to a build-up of fatty deposits inside the walls of the blood vessels causing them to become narrow and increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The NHS Health Check is a free check-up of your overall health. It can show if you are at risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes.
It’s available for people between 40 and 74 who do not have any pre-existing conditions such as, high blood pressure, diabetes or heart failure.
As well as at GP practices, people can also get their blood pressure checked at pharmacies. The NHS is expanding this service from December 1 in the hopes of delivering 2.5million blood pressure checks by spring 2025, which it estimates could prevent more than 1,350 heart attacks and strokes per year.