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BikesMy heart op shockPremiership football manager Sam Allardyce talks about his heart operation and how regular visits to his GP may have saved his life.

Football manager Sam Allardyce talks about his heart operation and how regular visits to his GP may have saved his life.

What kind of operation did you have?

Tests had found a blockage in one of my arteries, so I had an angioplasty. It’s a relatively straightforward operation to widen the artery using a small tube called a stent. The stent is inserted into the artery to let the blood flow more freely. I felt so much better just a few weeks after I’d had the operation.

What were your symptoms?

I was sunbathing on the beach in Doha, when England were playing Brazil there [in November 2009]. I was relaxed and stress-free but I had this discomfort in my chest. It felt a bit like indigestion but it didn't go away. When I got back, I went to see the club doctor. He listened to my chest and didn't like the sound of it, so he sent me for more tests.

What did the heart tests show?

They found a blockage. The specialist was so pleased that I saw him almost straightaway because it prevented me from having a heart attack. It could’ve happened within a matter of weeks or a couple of months. It was certainly going to happen if I hadn’t addressed the problem.

How did you react to the news of your heart condition?

To be honest, it came as a bit of a shock. I’d had a personal check-up with an exercise ECG [an electrocardiogram recording taken during exercise] eight months previously, which I’d passed OK. Once I got over the shock, I wanted to find out as much as possible. "Why have I got a blockage? Who’s going to do the surgery? What’s the recovery time?".

Were you worried you might have to quit football?

My first question to the specialist was whether I needed to give up my job. If he had said yes, I would’ve been absolutely devastated. Luckily, he said he didn’t think so. The blockage had been detected before any damage was done to the heart. All the other arteries were clear. He said that if I exercise more and closely watch my blood pressure and cholesterol, I’d have no problems doing this job.

What caused the blockage?

The pressure of the job was given as a reason, though not the main reason. But it certainly had an effect on me. The specialist said it had been building up over the last 10 years and had it not been detected, I probably would've had a heart attack. That's how a lot of people find out that their artery is blocked.

Is football management bad for your health?

It can take its toll if you lead my type of life, particularly the last 10 years of living on the edge with the ups and downs of football management. Many years ago, I took part in a TV documentary with Dave Bassett [then Leicester City manager] about the pressures of management. We were wired up to heart monitors for a game. The tests showed that at times, our heart rate on the touchline was as fast as the heart rate of someone running on a treadmill.

Is it important to have regular health check-ups?

Well, that may have saved my life. I’m aware that you shouldn’t ignore certain warnings in your body. As men we think we’re indestructible. You think you're tough. You think it's something that happens to other people. It's a macho thing. But prevention is much better than cure. If something feels unusual in any way, you must get it checked out.

What lifestyle changes have you had to make?

I’ve gone back to exercising more regularly. Diet-wise, I’m keeping an eye on the saturated fat and the sugars. I’ve also had to cut down on alcohol, because I’ve always celebrated the end of a hard-working week by having a drink and enjoying myself. It used to be beer, but now it's a glass of red wine. I don’t over-indulge as much as I sometimes did.

What kind of exercise do you do?

I exercise three times a week. I’m hoping to extend that to four or five times. I usually wear a heart monitor as I can’t allow myself to go past 120 beats per minute. I mainly work out in the gym, either on the bike, the treadmill or the cross-trainer. I particularly like swimming. At 55, the joints get more achey, so non-weight-bearing exercise, such as swimming, is very good.

What about changes to your diet?

I have to be careful about what I eat. I have fruit and cereal in the morning, and a little bit of pasta in the afternoon. In the evening, I’ll have fish or chicken with vegetables or salad. My biggest problem is the period after supper. I tend to feel peckish before I go to bed, so I have to make sure that I don’t ruin my daily diet by eating something after 8pm, such as a cheese and onion sandwich or a block of chocolate.

Have the lifestyle changes been hard to follow?

It does take a lot of self control. But by sticking to these changes, they will eventually become a habit. You reach a point where you start to feel guilty if you don’t do these things. I think that’s the sort of mentality you’ve got to adopt.

Do you enjoy exercising?

For me, it’s experiencing the feeling I get after exercising. When you’re tense or you’ve had a bad day or whatever, you go out and you exercise and you release some of that tension. You have a shower, and afterwards you think, "wow, I feel good".

BikesLinford Christie’s health & fitness tips Former Olympic 100m champion Linford Christie shares his tips on keeping fit and healthy and beating middle-aged spread.

BikesMy drinks diary shock Patrick Greene, 49, didn’t see himself as a heavy drinker until he kept a drinks diary for a week. He says it was a wake-up call.
Patrick Greene didn’t see himself as a heavy drinker until he kept a drinks diary for a week. He says it was a wake-up call.

"I was working from home and found that if I didn't go out in the evening I'd feel like I'd been cooped up all day," Patrick says.

"After doing the diary I went back to work at the company office so that I got the human contact I needed during the day."

Patrick's drinks diary

Read Patrick's diary to find out how much he was drinking in a typical week:

Day one: Wednesday

"Having drunk a couple of bottles of red wine last night I woke up about 5am, fairly dehydrated. Had supper with a friend at about 7pm. We shared two bottles of red wine and a bottle of sparkling mineral water."

Day two: Thursday

"Felt woolly-headed when I woke up at 8am. Drank two cups of decaf black coffee. Skipped lunch. Supper at a friend’s house. We had a bottle of red wine and a bottle of mineral water."

Day three: Friday

"Woke up at 6am, thirsty and worrying about the business. At midday I met a friend at the pub and had a bottle of beer. We moved on to a restaurant for lunch, ate risotto and polished off a bottle of white wine.

"Took the train down to Gloucestershire for the weekend. Arrived at 10pm and went to the pub to meet a friend. We had a late supper and I drank two vodka tonics and two bottles of wine."

Day four: Saturday

"Woke up late, about 10am, with a dreadful headache. A couple of painkillers and three large glasses of water later, I went downstairs to have breakfast. Later, we sat in the garden for a picnic lunch and two lovely bottles of chilled rosé.

"Drinks at the pub at 6pm: two white wine spritzers. A visit to a friend nearby continued with two bottles of beer, three bottles of 15-year-old red wine and a barbecue. Ended with a glass of dessert wine and a whisky and soda. Crawled to bed at 1am."

Day five: Sunday

"Slept pretty deeply and woke up at 9.45am. Feeling surprisingly well. Had a late lunch then an early pub visit with two small vodka tonics. Caught the train back to London, where I finished the weekend off with a bottle and a half of red wine."

Day six: Monday

"Dehydrated, tired and fuzzy-headed this morning. Lolled in bed from 7am till 9am then mustered up enough energy to start the day. Worked from home, so had a light lunch with a glass of white wine. Had a takeaway later with two bottles of beer."

Day seven: Tuesday

"Was feeling quite depressed when I woke at around 5am this morning. Got up and wrote a couple of emails then went back to bed until 8am. Had one bottle of beer with lunch. Finished the day by sharing a bottle of white wine.”

What the experts say

Graeme Markwell and Dr Tom Bailey, public health experts in Wandsworth, where Patrick lives, say he was regularly binge drinking. A drink here and there quickly added up to 120 units a week, well over four times the recommended limit for regular drinking.

They say:
“On the surface Patrick's drinking appears very sociable, but this behaviour could be masking the signs of dependent drinking. Patrick may seem healthy, but the alcohol is already likely to be causing internal damage, which will affect him in the long term.

"His over-consumption of alcohol can lead to irreversible liver cirrhosis or hepatitis. It can also substantially increase the risk of mouth and throat cancers, as well as high blood pressure and heart problems.

"Heavy drinking is also strongly linked to anxiety and depression and can uncover a predisposition to a psychiatric disorder. The good news is that Patrick still has time to turn things around if he modifies his lifestyle.”

Eight months later...

Patrick admits it took him another four months to really change. "I’d put on huge amounts of weight," he says. "I had breasts. Then, at a routine check, my doctor said my liver was on the border of being unhealthy.

“I began to realise I wasn’t functioning that well. I was getting depressed and I think that was connected to alcohol. It makes you moody, morose and introspective. I was forgetting things. I'd started on a new project and it was slipping away from me. I wasn’t on top of it.

"So I cut down my drinking dramatically, and started going to the gym four times a week. I started using my bicycle and cycling to work and to places where I’d previously drive. I’ve lost four kilograms. My breasts will become muscle at this rate!

“Now I limit myself to two glasses of red wine a night, have alcohol-free nights and never drink at lunchtime.

"My work rate is higher and I’m a bit more organised. My mood is much better and it’s great not feeling dreadful the next day."

BikesQuit smoking to boost healthAfter 15 years of not smoking, your risk of heart attack is the same as if you’d never smoked at all.

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A smoker's tale (video)Lose the belly (video) Around 1,000 people a week die from obesity-related conditions. If you want to get fit and lose the belly, watch this video to see how other men have done it.

Viewing video content in NHS Choices

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BikesFitness self-assessment (tool)

Do you think you're doing enough physical activity? This simple assessment will help you understand what the recommended levels are and will assess how close you are to meeting them.

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BikesHealthy eating self-assessment (tool) Do you really know what eating healthily means? Find out whether you're a healthy eater or could improve your eating patterns. .

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