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Bob Mortimer reflects on having open heart surgery

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The star, who is best known for his work with comedy partner Vic Reeves and more recently his popular fishing series with fellow comic Paul Whitehouse, received news of his looming open-heart surgery back around 2015 after he started to suffer from constant tiredness and sharp pain behind his left rib cage. The star said: “Looking back on it, I was sleeping every afternoon, I was breathless when I went to the top of the stairs or if I played football with my sons I couldn’t last very long. I just put it down to my age.”

After finally seeking medical help, the star was told he was in dire need of a coronary bypass surgery, which is often used to treat patients with coronary heart disease or angina.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) explains that bypass surgery helps to improve blood supply to the heart muscle. Coronary arteries may become blocked due to a build-up of fatty material known as atheroma.

If a piece of atheroma breaks off, it can cause a blood clot to form, propranolol during pregnancy putting individuals at risk of a potentially life-threatening heart attack.

By grafting a blood vessel between the aorta and a point along the coronary artery past the narrowed area, the narrowed sections of the arteries are bypassed.

Speaking about how he felt about his surgery at the time, Mortimer said: “When I came home from being told I had to have heart surgery, it felt so dramatic. You think it is over.

“Heart surgery just sounds… it was weird, the things that would make me cry were my favourite egg cup and my cats.

“Four days later they were cutting me open. I was 95 percent blocked. Finding out I had to have open-heart surgery is when I felt closest to death.

“The overpowering feeling was one of fear. I was very scared. I convinced myself that it would be absolutely life-changing. I don’t suppose I thought I was going to die, although they give you the warning that everyone gets before an operation.”

Mortimer confessed that his unhealthy lifestyle was a major contributing factor to his heart disease. Revealing in an interview, the Gone Fishing star said before his health scare he used to have a whopping 16 sugars in his tea and stuff his pockets with meats to snack on whenever he wanted.

The BHF explains that there are several risk factors that put an individual at increased risk of coronary heart disease. These include both factors that are controllable and uncontrollable.

Controllable factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Not doing enough physical activity.

Whereas uncontrollable factors include:

  • Family history
  • Age
  • Ethnic background.

Speaking for himself, Mortimer went on to say that although he has just about managed to curb his cravings for fatty foods, the motivation to exercise remains a “struggle”.

He added: “I’m better than I was, but I get so bored with things. I got an exercise bike and that lasted about four months, but then I lost the will to live.

“At this moment I’m in a phase where my wife and I go rambling every day.”

Although bypass surgery will give individuals back their quality of life, relieving them from chest pain, in order to remain fit and healthy drastic lifestyle changes will be needed.

The NHS explains that following a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and salt, but high in fibre and omega-3 (a fatty acid that can help reduce your cholesterol levels) can reduce your risk of needing further heart treatment. Examples of food individuals should try to eat include:

  • Starchy foods, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta
  • Fruit and vegetables – ideally five portions a day
  • Oily fish, such as mackerel and sardines.

In addition to diet, exercising for at least 150 minutes every week is also important for an overall healthy lifestyle. This should involve mainly moderate-intensity activity such as fast walking, cycling on ground level or doubles tennis.

The health body recommends that if individuals are finding it difficult to achieve 150 minutes of activity a week, they should start at a level they feel comfortable with such as 10 minutes of light exercise a day and gradually increase the duration and intensity of the activity over time.

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