How healthy is your heart?

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When you are rushing to get to the office on time or cooking dinner, do you ever stop and think how healthy your heart is?

Retired policeman Graham Hardy had not given it much thought until he found himself at Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford.

Here the 66-year-old keen walker shares his journey, which culminated in surgery, as part of Heart Health Month.

Fit and active Mr Hardy first came to Royal Surrey in 2008 after noticing he was finding it increasingly difficult to lead walking holidays.

He was in the midst of 18 months of tests when he started to feel his heart ‘galloping away’ as he stood in the shower.

After using his gym heart rate monitor he released that something might be wrong and went straight to his GP, who immediately called an ambulance.

He was diagnosed with cardiac and pulmonary sarcoidosis, which was causing significant impairment to his heart.

Doctors told Mr Hardy that he would need a pacemaker fitted, which is a small matchbox sized electronic device that was surgically implanted in his chest.

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Mr Hardy at the top of Ben Nevis

The pacemaker sends electrical pulses to the heart to keep it beating regularly and not too slowly or fast.

Mr Hardy’s device also includes a defibrillator, which can send a larger electrical shock to the heart if it stops pumping and reboot it.

“Before this I was very active and I decided that I wasn’t going to suddenly become a couch potato,” said Mr Hardy from Guildford, Surrey.

“After coming to terms with what had happened I made the decision to start exercising at home by walking up and down my stairs for 20 minutes, which was quite boring.”

With the advice of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Team and the Trust’s Clinical Measurements Team, he was quickly able to progress this to walking around his neighbourhood.

He was also assisted and encourage by his friends to go to the gym and walk regularly.

“Over the years the Clinical Measurements Team has been incredible,” said Mr Hardy.

“They have helped me to maximize what I am able to do safely with my pacemaker. In August this year I was able to safely climb Ben Nevis without issue.

To keep his heart in tip top shape Mr Hardy tries to exercise three times a week and eat sensibly.

“I still see the Clinical Measurements team two or three times a year and they are just wonderful. I count them as friends.

“Every now and again my heart goes charging off into the wilderness and my pacemaker kicks in and sets it back to a normal rhythm. It is essentially there as a safety measure and doesn’t give me any trouble.”

Consultant Cardiologist Mike Hickman, said: “A healthy, balanced diet and regular physical activity can help you keep your weightblood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels, and improve your heart health.”

©2017 Royal Surrey County Hospital

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