When 47-year-old Jonathan had a heart attack, it came completely out of the blue. He wasn’t overweight, he didn’t smoke, and his family had no history of heart disease.
“Having a heart attack was a complete surprise to me,” says Jonathan. “It wasn’t in any way the most ill I've ever felt, but I didn't get any better,” adds Jonathan.
It was only after returning home from the hospital that the severity of the heart attack became clear, “I remember that day feeling absolutely awful and very weak. After no more than eight to ten minutes of my daily walk, I felt completely exhausted, lightheaded, and out of breath. It was quite a difficult time,” says Jonathan.
Before the heart attack, Jonathan enjoyed an active life, spending most of his time with his wife and young daughter, and being outdoors. The family would regularly go on hikes, and as they lived by a river, Jonathan had a canoe that he would often take for a paddle along the water.
“I really feared whether I would ever be able to do that again”
Hope came when Jonathan discovered cardiac rehabilitation was a way to support recovery. The waiting time for the NHS was so long that Jonathan searched for alternative providers, and was relieved to find that Nuffield Health was funded through his private medical insurance. “In terms of the initial contact, it was very easy,” says Jonathan.
“The staff at Nuffield Health are super responsive to emails and really helpful in providing information on what to expect”
Jonathan points out that while the cardiac rehab programme includes “classes in a gym and exercising in a structured workout programme with a dedicated one-to-one expert, it's not the whole thing.”
Jonathan’s cardiac rehab programme began with an initial assessment, followed by sessions with a cardiac nurse, which included discussions about his personal circumstances and how the heart works.
Jonathan also had a session with a pharmacist, who answered any questions he had about the different medications he takes. He also met with a dietician to talk about what would make for the best diet to support his recovery.
“So it’s a holistic programme, not just going on a treadmill. And I found that really reassuring.”
End-to-end, the cardiac rehab programme lasted eight weeks, from initial assessment to final review. There was flexibility around when the sessions took place, which, Jonathan says, “It really took the stress away from me because I felt like I could combine returning to work with doing the all important classes.”
Before starting the programme, Jonathan was particularly concerned about what was safe for him to do and what might put him at risk. “When you've had one heart attack, the last thing you want is to have another one,” says Jonathan. “But having completed the cardiac rehab programme, I'm left with a real sense of confidence about what's safe to do, and what's not,” adds Jonathan.
Jonathan learned that one of the key things was to make incremental improvements and not try to rush ahead. “It’s all about building up gradually,” he says. Jonathan found that over a space of just a few short weeks, he was feeling considerably better, energised and a lot fitter.
“Now I can do a 5–10K walk and feel fine at the end of it”
Jonathan says, “I can play with my daughter and not feel exhausted. And I can do more around the house. So I really feel like over time you feel the benefits.”
Jonathan was cared for at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact our friendly team here: Cardiac Rehabilitation in the City of London
Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the UK, with someone admitted to a hospital every five minutes due to a heart attack. Jonathan Canham, London Hospital Director, explains Why cardiac rehabilitation is worth the investment.
Last updated Thursday 25 May 2023
First published on Tuesday 7 February 2023