Taking heart

DAVID Bobbett, a global entrepreneur and a major shareholder in H&K International, was on a fast track to becoming a fatal statistic. On the face of things he was an unlikely candidate.

He used to train every day and kept a close eye on his diet. Yet a CT heart scan gave him a worryingly high score of 906 — understandable it you are in your 80s, but life threatening to Bobbett at 52 years of age. His doctors gave him a one-in-four chance of having a heart attack within the next 12 months.

He took the warning seriously and started to rigorously research his condition, looking for ways to regain his health, and to beat the odds.

In an upcoming documentary Heart of the Matter he joins RTE presenter George Lee in search of answers to sudden heart attack on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ten people a day in Ireland have a sudden heart attack without having any sign of heart disease. These attacks are believed to be caused, in the majority of cases, by the build up of calcified plaque in the arteries.

Lee believes a simple CT scan — available to walk-in patients for $99 in the States — is the key to their survival.

“It’s completely non-invasive — is finished in about a minute and shows you how much calcification you have in your blood vessels. On the basis of how much you have, you get a score, which could be from zero to thousands.

“This simple score is a better indicator of heart disease than all the other indicators combined,” says Lee, referring to the work of Dr Matthew Budoff, author of the American Heart Association guidelines.

“Once you know, you can do something about it. If you saw the picture you could change your lifestyle — you would be mad not to. If you give people the knowledge... you could stop 90% of heart attacks.”

But what about established methods of testing such as a cholesterol reading?

“It is a very, very blunt and not an accurate way of addressing or accessing the risk of heart attack,” he says. “Most heart attacks are happening to people in the middle risk category — this is a mis-classification of risk.”

CT scans are available in Ireland but only if requested by a cardiologist.

David Bobbett is back in charge. After consulting experts in America he discovered he has a genetic predisposition to heart disease and now follows a strict diet, vitamin and exercise regime to stop dangerous calcified plaque growing.

During the making of the programme, Lee, 50, underwent numerous heart-related tests, including a CT scan, but says you will have to watch the documentary to find out what his results were.

* Heart of the Matter, RTE One, Thursday, Mar 7, 10.15pm.


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