‘MED­I­CA­TION & DIET GO HAND IN HAND’

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - CHOLESTEROL SPECIAL -

Thomas Ber­gin from Wick­low was just five years old when his fa­ther died as a re­sult of heart disease aged 37, writes AR­LENE HAR­RIS. Con­se­quently, the 71-year-old, who is mar­ried to Jenifer and has four sons, suf­fered his first heart at­tack at around the same age be­fore dis­cov­er­ing that he had in­her­ited the same heart prob­lems and high choles­terol as his fa­ther — but thanks to med­i­ca­tion and a good life­style, he is fit and well.

“When my fa­ther died, there was very lit­tle help or ad­vice avail­able to fam­ily mem­bers at risk of heart disease, so I didn’t re­ally think too much about it un­til I suf­fered two heart at­tacks in 1985,” says Thomas.

“I was put on As­pirin (to thin my blood) and statins to re­duce my choles­terol, which at the time had a read­ing of over six. Then four years later, af­ter re­turn­ing to Ire­land from liv­ing in Lon­don, I was re­ferred to a car­di­ol­o­gist who dis­cov­ered that the three main ar­ter­ies to my heart were blocked, so I was put on a wait­ing list for surgery and had a quadru­ple by­pass eight months later.

“Hav­ing a fam­ily his­tory of heart disease and high choles­terol meant that over the past few decades, I suf­fered sev­eral fur­ther car­diac ar­rests and a blood clot. But, thank­fully, a com­bi­na­tion of med­i­ca­tion, ex­er­cise and a changed life­style re­duced my choles­terol level sig­nif­i­cantly and I have led a pos­i­tive and health-scare-free life since 2010.

“These changes in­cluded giv­ing up smok­ing, tak­ing up ex­er­cise and eat­ing a re­ally good diet. I used to be a cho­co­holic, so al­though I haven’t given it up com­pletely, I only have a bit ev­ery now and again. And I don’t eat things like creamy sauces, piz­zas or any­thing else like that — my diet is quite plain, which I think re­ally helps.

“I also walk a lot, which I be­lieve is the best ex­er­cise any­one can do — be­cause it doesn’t put stress on your joints and is men­tally mo­ti­vat­ing, as well as be­ing great for you phys­i­cally.

“And this, along with a high dosage of statins, re­duced my choles­terol lev­els to 4.1, which is a huge im­prove­ment – al­though my new con­sul­tant says I could get it down to 4, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but ev­ery lit­tle re­duc­tion makes a dif­fer­ence.

“I am def­i­nitely proof that choles­terol can be greatly re­duced with a com­bi­na­tion of med­i­ca­tion and diet, which cer­tainly go hand in hand.

“I get my lev­els checked ev­ery six months and I would en­cour­age peo­ple to make sure they are checked ev­ery year or so as the symp­toms aren’t ap­par­ent oth­er­wise, and so much can be done to re­duce it if it’s too high.

“I’ve been through a lot, but as far as high choles­terol is con­cerned, I think statins are the best in­ven­tion ever — and I’m a liv­ing ex­am­ple of that.”

PHOTO: DAMIEN EAGERS

Thomas Ber­gin at his home in Bray, Co Wick­low

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