Regardless of age, heart attacks and strokes can occur when undergoing extreme exercise, without physical warning and even when relaxed on the golf course.

Sadly, this weekend we learned of the deaths of two runners aged 25 and 32 during the Cardiff half marathon 2018.  During the 2005 Great North Run four runners died and last month four men aged between 28 and 54 died whilst competing in the same annual race.  In April this year, during the London Marathon, 29year-old Masterchef contestant Matt Cambell died.

So what’s going on?  Why does this happen in seemingly healthy athletes?

There are a number of suggestions put forward by experts including lack of appropriate training, overexertion, heatstroke, and hyponatremia (lack of sodium through drinking too much water and failing to replenish with the right salts).  The ambulance crew attending the Cardiff event, however, suggested the only factor was down to ‘the warm weather and sunshine’.

Well, sorry to disagree folks but I have another theory.

For many years I ran cardiovascular health screening clinics. My claim to fame is that I saved the life of a runner who I screened just 10 days before the Bath Half, some years ago.  Her reading was off the scale and so I insisted she go immediately to see her GP and advised that under no circumstances should she run in the event.  Her GP agreed, and sensibly, the lady in question followed our guidance.  Another claim to fame and proud moment, was when I introduced a new concept to and trained an NHS heart specialist in what I am about to share with you.

The heart is a complicated vital organ.

For years it was thought by surgeons that the workings inside the heart itself and the main arteries leading to and from it were the most important parts to understand. However, as happens with advances in knowledge and technology, a few years ago it was discovered that specialists had missed a trick. In the 1990s Professor Dean Ornish, MD, president and founder of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, was considered revolutionary when he announced that changing your diet to become mostly vegetarian can actually reverse symptoms of heart disease.

Another pioneer of this radical change was Dr. Arthur Agatston, MD who created The South Beach Diet, and then went on to write his bestseller ‘The South Beach Heart Programme in 2007.

More and more Cardiologists across the United States now consider themselves to be in the preventative medicine arena and also Nutritionists. In fact, some of them, according to Dr. Agatston, rarely see heart attacks happen in their practice at all. Let’s hope the UK will catch up soon.

What are the 4 key steps to keeping your cardiovascular system in good shape for YOU and YOUR FAMILY?

Like a cake recipe, we need to look at more than one ingredient.

  1. Follow a plant-based nutrition packed diet… high in green leafy veg, dark berry fruits, small amounts of good proteins and high-quality fats.
  2. Enjoy the right kind of exercise according to your age and ability.
  3. Book your non-invasive cardiovascular screening appointment. Some natural health clinics can offer this service (contact me for information if you can’t find anyone in your location). When you know your numbers, you will know how ‘at risk’ you are and can receive guidance on how to minimise your risk. In the UK if you are between 47 and 74, you are entitled to ask your GP for a Well Person check-up that will include a mini ECG – although this won’t tell you what a private scan can show up about the state of your arterial system – only an invasive angiogram in hospital can do this – and you are not offered this test unless you already have symptoms or have endured a heart attack.
  4. Ask your GP or pharmacist to review your current medication. Many people I have scanned over the years have been on medication they don’t need or have been on meds that are no longer working for them.



Don’t wait to become a statistic. Minimise your risk now by getting scanned and reviewing your lifestyle and diet….and be Astute….ensure your will is in place, just in case things don’t go to plan!



Cardiff Half

Great North Run

Matt Cambell, London Marathon

Professor Dean Ornish

South Beach Heart Programme