Shane Warne was only 52, when he died last week from a suspected heart attack in a luxury Koh Samui villa where he was holidaying with friends.
According to an autopsy report conducted by local authorities, Warne’s death was due to natural causes, which is believed to be the result of a heart attack.
It has been reported that in the weeks before travelling to Thailand, Shane Warne was trying to get into shape, had seen his doctor about chest pains and was having trouble with his asthma.
According to sources close to him, he had just completed an extreme 14-day liquid diet days before his tragic death, and apparently it was a diet he had done many times before.
The cricketing legend was also a smoker who battled with his weight for years.
His death at the age of 52 has come as a wake-up call for middle aged-men, and women, across the country, who wonder if they could be next.
An average of 21 Australians die from a heart attack every day
Associate Professor Arthur Nasis, cardiologist and Head of Acute Cardiac Services at MonashHeart, told Neos Kosmos that a heart attack, like in this case, can be fatal.
“It can happen to anyone, although is more common as we get older, and can sometimes occur very suddenly with minimal, if any, warning.”
He explained that a heart attack occurs when one of the heart arteries, which sit on the heart muscle and supply blood to it, becomes blocked.
“This stops blood getting to the heart muscle, and the longer this situation is left untreated, the more damage occurs to the heart muscle and the higher the risk of sudden death.”
“In fact,” Dr Nasis stressed, “heart attack is the most common cause of death in Australia, with an average of 21 Australians dying from a heart attack every day. However, there are three simple things I would urge you to remember that might one day save your life, or the life of somebody close to you.”
Three things that can save a life
Firstly, he tells us that it is important to be aware of the potential symptoms that might indicate that somebody is having a heart attack.
“The most common warning sign is chest discomfort, tightness or pain that can spread to the arms, throat, jaw or back. Unlike chest pain caused by other causes, pain caused by a heart attack usually persists for more than 10 minutes.
The pain may be associated with dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, vomiting or breathing difficulty. The symptoms are usually felt in the centre or left side of the chest and are generally described like an uncomfortable pressure, aching, squeezing or fullness in the chest. I often hear people having a heart attack say: ‘It feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest’ and they sometimes clench their fist and lift it to their chest when describing this.
“Once you reach the age of 40, see your doctor regularly and ask for a heart health check”
Secondly, if you or somebody near you has chest pain for greater than 10 minutes, or if the pain is severe and getting worse, call Triple Zero (000) immediately for an ambulance. This simple action could one day save your life, or the life of a friend, colleague or loved one. Do not drive yourself and do not call a friend to take you, even if you think it is quicker than waiting for an ambulance.
This is critical because as soon as an ambulance arrives, treatment can be provided by paramedics immediately at the scene, and they can notify the hospital of the patient’s arrival which allows us more time to prepare and have the facilities ready to unblock the clogged artery as soon as the patient arrives.
There is also a risk of a cardiac arrest (the heart “stopping”) during the very early stages of a heart attack, meaning the best chance of surviving this lethal event is by a rapid “electric shock” and resuscitation that can be provided by paramedics in an ambulance, not in a private car.
Thirdly, once you reach the age of 40, see your doctor regularly and ask for a heart health check to calculate you heart attack risk.
Your doctor will do this by checking certain modifiable risk factors that increase heart attack risk, namely cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, smoking status, exercise and dietary habits, waist circumference and weight.
Depending on these results, as well as age, family history of heart disease, and any previous history of heart problems, your doctor may reassure you, or if there is concern that your risk of heart attack is high, your doctor may recommend specific tests such as a calcium score, CT scan or stress test.
As a result of this check-up, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medications and sometimes even procedures to minimise your heart attack risk as much as possible.”
It is never too late to make lifestyle choices to reduce your risk of future heart disease
Dr Nasis emphasises that it is never too late to take control of your heart health and to make lifestyle choices that will reduce your risk of future heart disease.
“While there is no single diet that is perfect for everybody, a Pesco-Mediterranean diet is a good place to start”
“Know your weight, know your waist circumference, know your blood pressure, know your cholesterol, and know your blood sugar. Your diet is typically the biggest influence on weight and an unhealthy diet can increase your risk of heart attack. While there is no single diet that is perfect for everybody, a Pesco-Mediterranean diet is a good place to start.”
It is important, he adds, to minimise refined carbohydrates, processed meats, and foods high in sodium and fats.
“Use moderation when consuming unprocessed red meats, poultry, eggs, and milk. Have a high intake of fruits, nuts, fish, vegetables, vegetable oils, minimally processed whole grains and legumes. Remember to make long term adjustments that you can sustain – fad diets or short-term solutions don’t last.”
Any physical activity is better than none
“Limit your alcohol intake, stay active and exercise regularly. Most guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderately vigorous aerobic activity each week. However, any physical activity is better than none. It is much more important to just do some exercise, rather than worry about achieving an exact amount,” Dr Nasis says
He refers to a common mistake people make when starting a new exercise plan.
“People do not increase intensity as their fitness improves, which helps achieve maximal reduction in heart attack disease risk. Some strength training is also recommended at least 2 days per week.”
The cricketing legend was a smoker who battled with his weight for years.
The Greek Australian cardiologist stresses how important it is for your heart, to quit smoking, even if you only smoke a small amount.
“Smoking increases the risk of heart attack sixfold in women and threefold in men compared to non-smokers. Even if you only smoke a small amount, you are still at increased risk. Studies have shown that those that smoke 1-2 cigarettes per day are twice as likely to die of any cause compared to non-smokers. The risks increase the more you smoke.”
Once you quit smoking, Dr Nasis explains that after about 10-15 years, your risk of heart attack is about the same someone who has never smoked.
“Smoking increases the risk of heart attack sixfold in women and threefold in men compared to non-smokers”
The other factors that contribute to an increase risk of heart disease are stress, anxiety, low mood, and lack of sleep.
“Take care of yourself with simple measures such as adequate sleep (seven to eight hours each night), adequate hydration and stress management techniques such as mediation or yoga to allow your mind to relax and unwind.”