The Scottish Mail on Sunday

The diet that has saved my life

Af­ter sur­viv­ing FIVE heart at­tacks, The Mail on Sun­day’s good food guru shares...

- By Sally Bee

SOME would say I’m an un­lucky per­son. At 48, and de­spite hav­ing al­ways taken care of my health, I’ve had five heart at­tacks and count­ing. The first three, which oc­curred within one week when I was just 36, were so huge that at one point my sob­bing hus­band was ush­ered into the op­er­at­ing theatre to say good­bye.

But I didn’t die. In fact, I pulled through. Then hav­ing been well for more than a decade, dis­as­ter struck last year and I suf­fered a fur­ther two heart at­tacks – which is why view­ers of ITV’s Lor­raine show, where I’m res­i­dent chef, will have seen a bit less of me re­cently.

So, yes, this could be seen as very bad luck. But do I think I’m un­lucky? No. In fact, I con­sider my­self to be one of the luck­i­est peo­ple alive.

I’m on the mend again and de­ter­mined to feel bet­ter than ever. I be­lieve that when it comes to our health, we can make our own luck.

Af­ter those first at­tacks, I de­voted my life to spread­ing the word about the thing I be­lieve saved me: a bal­anced diet and healthy ap­proach to life. I’d al­ways eaten well, but dur­ing my re­cov­ery I re­alised that when I ate nu­tri­tion­ally packed food, my body re­acted in pos­i­tive ways. If I didn’t, I be­gan to feel poorly again.

With this in mind, I be­gan to write my own recipes. And my doc­tors, stunned by my re­cov­ery, agreed that my ap­proach to healthy liv­ing was the rea­son I beat the odds.

Michelle Obama, a great ad­vo­cate of good nu­tri­tion, fa­mously bought 12 copies of my first recipe col­lec­tion af­ter a trip to the UK. Now, along­side ap­pear­ing on Lor­raine, I am an am­bas­sador for Heart Re­search UK and also write my Real Su­per­foods col­umn for The Mail on Sun­day, shar­ing my con­vic­tion that good nu­tri­tion doesn’t mean buy­ing ex­pen­sive foods or hard-to-find ex­otic in­gre­di­ents. I’m a busy mother-of-three – Tarik, 18, Kazim, 15, and Lela, 13 – so I don’t have time to scour health­food shops for the lat­est won­der­berry or rare grain.

My sixth recipe book, Bee­l­i­cious, will be pub­lished this month and is a cul­mi­na­tion of ev­ery­thing I have learned in a col­lec­tion of recipes, some of which are fea­tured on th­ese pages.

But it’s also a jour­nal in which read­ers can record their thoughts and feel­ings – and more prac­ti­cal things such as whether they’ve had enough wa­ter that day. My hope is that the book will be your chef and life coach rolled into one.

Of course, I can’t deny the mag­nif­i­cent med­i­cal care I have re­ceived over the years. But by eat­ing well, you can sup­port your body and help it to func­tion bet­ter for longer. And if and when dis­as­ter strikes, you will be bet­ter placed to sur­vive and re­cover. I truly be­lieve I am a liv­ing ex­am­ple of that.

My rare con­di­tions

MY INI­TIAL heart at­tacks were a rare type, due to some­thing known as spon­ta­neous coro­nary artery dis­sec­tion (SCAD), in which the ar­ter­ies around the heart tear.

There is no spe­cific treat­ment for it but I am on a high dose of betablock­ers, which keep my heart re­laxed. And I take statins, known to lower choles­terol and for their anti-in­flam­ma­tory ef­fects. But I know the re­al­ity is that I could have another at­tack at any time.

Two years ago, I had some tough news when it was dis­cov­ered that I suf­fer from fi­bro­mus­cu­lar dys­pla­sia (FMD), a rare con­di­tion that causes the blood ves­sels to grow in ab­nor­mal ways, nar­row­ing in some places and bulging in oth­ers.

The ar­ter­ies in my brain, neck, heart, kid­neys and legs are af­fected, mean­ing I’m prone to heart at­tacks and strokes.

Sus­pect­ing the two prob­lems might be linked, doc­tors started test­ing pa­tients who had suf­fered a SCAD heart at­tack for FMD, which is how I came to be di­ag­nosed.

And then it hap­pened. On Novem­ber 12 last year, I was walk­ing along with Bob, my bor­der ter­rier, and Do­gan, my hus­band, when I fell over, face-first into the pave­ment. Do­gan tried to get me up, but I couldn’t move. The wind had been blown out of me. I was aware that I was count­ing my teeth with my tongue, hop­ing they were all there. Even­tu­ally, Do­gan got me home.

Six days later, feel­ing frag­ile, I sat up in bed and felt an un­mis­tak­able sweep of ‘im­pend­ing doom’ wash over. I’d felt it be­fore my first heart at­tack, and I knew what was com­ing. The pain in my chest ar­rived. I stum­bled down­stairs and Do­gan called the am­bu­lance.

I sur­vive the un­sur­viv­able

AT HOS­PI­TAL, blood tests showed I had suf­fered a fourth heart at­tack. I be­lieve that the shock of be­ing told this trig­gered a fifth right there in hos­pi­tal.

The artery that goes around the back of the heart had rup­tured. There was noth­ing they could do to help me. It was sim­ply a case of wait and see and hope and pray. I was dev­as­tated. I’d worked so hard to build up my strength both phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally. I was back at square one. Worse, in fact, be­cause this was another round of dam­age my heart had sus­tained. I knew that many peo­ple in my sit­u­a­tion would need a heart trans­plant to sur­vive.

For the next few days, I cried in my bed. I hated the world for do­ing this to me. I slept. Then it dawned on me. I was still alive and had won­der­ful peo­ple tak­ing care of me. My fam­ily needed me, my friends

needed me. All my hard work over the past 12 years to stay fit and well was not wasted, it had worked. I had again, sur­vived the un­sur­viv­able.

And then, some amaz­ing news: de­spite the mas­sive at­tacks, the new dam­age was min­i­mal. I gave a quiet lit­tle cheer. A few weeks ago, fur­ther tests showed the power out­put of my heart is nor­mal. My ap­proach has saved me again.

The next year is go­ing to be chal­leng­ing for me but I’m de­ter­mined not to miss a thing. My mantra is sim­ple: every day, make sure you are the best you can be.

Or­der your copy of Bee­l­i­cious, by Sally Bee, be­fore June 25 for the spe­cial price of £17 (RRP £20), at sally-bee.com.

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