Encouraging others to look after their heart health

After suffering a heart attack at the age of just 39, Soane’s now encouraging others to make healthier lifestyle choices and get a heart health check early.

In February 2014, at the age of 39, Soane experienced chest pain after a game of touch. 

"I went to the car after the game, and I had a pain right in the middle of my chest. I thought I'd pulled a chest muscle. I thought, 'I'll get rid of it by up lighting a cigarette.' But it got worse." 

Once home the pain strengthened and Soane started to fear the worst. But with only his daughter at home, he tried to remain as calm as possible. 

"I just calmly said to her, 'I think you might need to call the ambulance. I'm not feeling well.' I didn't want to freak her out. I was really softly spoken. I didn’t want to tell her I had chest pain. Luckily, my wife arrived home shortly afterwards." 

When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics confirmed his fears – he was having a heart attack. 

Soane was taken to the hospital where he underwent an angioplasty procedure to open the blocked artery and improve blood flow to the heart. 

"I could see everything on the massive TV screen. They put a stent in to open the artery and they did that through a blood vessel in my wrist. I was in and out because of the medication, but wow it was amazing technology." 

While recovering in hospital, he spent a lot of time reflecting on his lifestyle and decided to make some changes when he returned home.  

As well as quitting smoking, Soane cut back on his drinking. He also eats a more heart-healthy diet, has cut out caffeine, and takes pills to help his heart function better. 

"It was hard. I couldn't do those things I loved to do, like rugby. But then I thought at least I'm still mobile. That's a good thing." 

Since his experience, Soane has been sharing his own story in the wider community to encourage others to look after their health. 

“It’s important to know that fitness alone can't protect you from heart disease, you need to be aware of the other risk factors, such as a family history of heart disease.” 

Heart disease is the single biggest cause of death for Pacific men in New Zealand, with 13 Pacific men dying every month. Soane wants others to know that it’s important to check your heart health regularly. 

"I've got a good friend here in South Auckland who runs a men's wellness programme – a group of guys who get together to talk about health. There's a lot of young guys. I go and talk to some of the young fellas there about their diet, encourage them to get a check-up. We've got young guys dying in their late 30s. We've got these young men who are gone well before their time." 

To get a free online heart health check visit the Heart Foundation’s My Heart Check. It raises awareness of heart health and offers tips to manage the risk of heart disease. 

You can use My Heart Check to get an idea of your heart age compared to your actual age. It also estimates your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and shares tips on how to reduce the risk.