Kevin Busch used to smoke up to 40 cigarettes a day, drink a six-pack of heavy beers at least four nights a week, and regularly eat big, fatty meals.
That was, however, until this lifestyle finally caught up with him one morning in early-July.
‘I went downstairs to see my wife Mary off before she went to work,’ Kevin said.
‘I went and sat on a stool, and basically fell off and collapsed.
‘My wife did CPR for 15 minutes and called Triple Zero (000) and had an ambulance advising her what to do.
‘When the paramedics arrived, they did another 10-15 minutes of CPR and gave me a few shocks with the defibrillator.
‘Luckily, I woke up the next day in Cairns Hospital.’
Kevin, 57, suffered a myocardial infarction (heart attack), resulting in two stents needing to be surgically implanted into his heart.
He was in hospital for a week, followed by a 10-week recovery at home. His rehabilitation is ongoing.
Kevin was in no doubt that his unhealthy lifestyle had majorly contributed to his medical emergency.
‘I’m not really sure whether I had any symptoms leading into it, but if my wife wasn’t there, she would have found me at home, dead on the floor,’ he said.
‘I’m lucky to be alive.’
Cairns has one of the highest rates of heart-related hospital admissions (55.7 per cent) in Australia, according to the Heart Foundation.
Additionally, coronary heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Queensland, with more than 19,000 Queenslanders succumbing to the disease between 2014-2018, representing 12.8 per cent of all causes of death.
Kevin described his heart attack as a call-to-arms to make substantial changes to his lifestyle.
‘I’ve stopped drinking, and only drink non-alcoholic beer at the moment – maybe just a regular one on a special occasion like a wedding,’ he said.
‘I’ve also gone cold turkey on cigarettes; been eating more healthy food in my diet such as fruit and nuts; and been doing more regular exercise through my rehabilitation program provided by the hospital.
‘It’s been tough, but it’s needed to happen.
‘Everyone knows when they’re not living healthy. You just need to make a conscious decision to make changes, even small ones, and gradually work up to leading a healthier lifestyle.’
While Kevin has lost 5kg since his heart attack, he said he was not out of the woods yet, and still acutely aware that he needed to maintain these changes.
He said he would also be paying more attention to his body, in particular symptoms of a heart attack.
Symptoms of cardiac arrest that men commonly experience include: chest pain or discomfort; shortness of breath; and nausea.
Men may also experience other symptoms: arm pain; back, neck, jaw and shoulder pain; cold sweat; and dizziness.
For women, symptoms differ slightly. Women may also experience: back, neck or jaw pain or tightness; a burning sensation in the chest (similar to heartburn); fatigue; lightheadedness; sweating; stomach or arm pain.
‘If you feel anything wrong in your body, don’t put it down to being simple muscular pain or something like that,’ Kevin said.
‘If it’s in the chest, it doesn’t hurt to have it checked out by a doctor.
‘Since my heart attack happened, a few friends of mine have gone had had cardiograms and said that they’ve found problems.’
Top tips for avaoiding heart disease
- Cease smoking – it’s good for your heart and lungs – but the rest of your body will also benefit.
- Know your family history for heart disease as this can increase your risk for a cardiac condition.
- Increase your intake of healthy foods: vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
- Cut back on alcohol, soft drinks and flavoured milk. These are high in calories and add to weight gain.
- Move more every day – increased activity can help to lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure and reduce weight. It improves your cardiovascular fitness. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise every week.
- Avoid sitting for long periods during the day – being sedentary increases your chances of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Stand up more and move around as often as possible.
- Be aware of your stress and take steps to manage it – it is often the forgotten risk factor.
- Ask your GP for a heart health check so you can take steps to reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack.
For more information, head to The Heart Foundation's website.