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Angina symptoms take a serious turn

It took a few years for Stephen Bovett to mention his angina symptoms to his GP but he soon discovered his situation was more urgent than he’d imagined.

Stephen, 48, had been getting tired easily and feeling pressure in his chest when he exercised. Being fit and otherwise healthy, he didn’t think he could have a problem with his heart.

“I thought it was due to getting older,” says Stephen, who was a Territorial Soldier for six years from 1990 till 1996.

His GP referred him to hospital, where he had less-than-satisfactory results on a treadmill test, followed by an angiogram.

“When I saw the pictures from my angiogram I was shocked – my arteries were all bent at right angles and clogged up. I was told I needed bypass surgery immediately and that I was a high-priority, urgent case.

“The good news was that I hadn’t had a heart attack and there was nothing wrong with my valves.”

Stephen was quickly booked in for surgery in May last year, and required five bypasses.

“The hardest part of accepting this was that I’d had a healthy lifestyle all my life. I’ve never smoked, drank only small amounts socially, ate very little take-aways or deep fried food, was not overweight and had kept a good level of fitness, having served in the army for six years.”

The father-of-two later discovered that despite living a generally healthy lifestyle, his liver was producing too much bad cholesterol.

But thanks to his fitness, Stephen was able to leave hospital four days after the surgery – three days earlier than scheduled.

“The immediate recovery from bypass surgery is tough for anyone – having to cough up the mucus that builds up in your lungs for many weeks afterwards, being on extremely strong pain relief, needing help with the most basic of things, having to sleep lying on your back propped up with many pillows, always being uncomfortable and sore, the list goes on.

“But as the months pass you can see your improvement – the amount of pills you have to take reduces, the pain subsides and you can do more ‘normal’ things.”

Now, 11 months after his surgery, Stephen’s angina is gone and he is feeling healthy and energetic.

“My diet has changed for the better. I don’t drink alcohol or eat any deep fried food, fish and chips, pastry, baking, eggs, cheese, or anything with large amounts of sugar or salt. I haven’t had any of that sort of food since I was diagnosed and I don’t miss any of it."

“I do a lot of walking and swimming. I’ll be joining a gym shortly as I feel capable of doing more physical things as I recover.”

Stephen is glad to be enjoying improved health and plans to maintain his healthier lifestyle.

He is still employed at a Taranaki sawmill and says his boss has been incredibly supportive.

“My employer was excellent in how they dealt with this and my recovery, easing me back into work on reduced hours and light duties until I was recovered enough to resume full hours and tasks.

“My long-term prognosis is good, as long as I maintain a sensible diet, exercise and keep the weight off.”

His message to anyone reading this?

“Don’t take up smoking and give up now if you do. Eat very limited amounts of take-away deep-fried food, avoid food that is full of salt and sugar, avoid sugary drinks, exercise daily, keep the weight off and, most importantly, go to your GP immediately if you get chest pain, especially when you exercise."