This Man Went From The Verge Of A Heart Attack To Losing 20kg

Wattie van Rensburg had the odds stacked against him: his genes and his lifestyle were conspiring together to lead him to a heart attack.


Arthur Jones |

Wattie van Rensburg had the odds stacked against him: his genes and his lifestyle were conspiring together to lead him to a heart attack. Here’s how he saved himself.

Related: 3 Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Disease

1. The Problem

“I grew up on a diet of vleis, rys en aartappels, prepared with lots of butter and sugar. I played rugby at one of the top boys’ schools in the country. Fitness was intense, so eating a lot was part of the package. After school, I played rugby at a first-league club, but after a knee operation and a few shoulder dislocations, I decided to stop. That’s when my exercise stopped, too. My wife and I tried to eat a balanced diet, but cheese and high-fat meat remained a big part of it. Exercise? Not so much.”

The lesson: It’s not just about your diet. You need to exercise regularly – find something you can stick to.

Related: 100 Simple Things You Can Do Right Now To Protect Your Heart

2. The Change

“My problem started when I turned 33 and was diagnosed with high cholesterol, at around 8 mmol/l. A specialist physician colleague of mine commented: ‘If you’re under 5, you’re alive, over 7, you go to heaven.’ The diagnosis shook me to the core. My specialised field of research is the prevention and treatment of heart attacks and strokes, so I know the consequences of high cholesterol on heart health. Both my parents have been on cholesterol-lowering drugs, and one of my grandfathers died of a massive heart attack at the age of 54.”

The lesson: Research your genetic background and family tree.

Related: Your 4-Step Guide To Eating Less Salt And Protecting Your Heart

3. The Strategy

“My doctor recommended starting with cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, these drugs all have side-effect lists as long as my arm – not something I wanted for the rest of my life. So I created an evidence-based diet that would naturally decrease my cholesterol levels. Having a full-time job and a young family, my time is very limited. So I compiled a fat-busting workout from previous Men’s Health issues that fitted into my schedule: two days per week for 30 minutes; 10 minutes of cardio, and 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training.”

The lesson: Drop the excuses and make a plan. Visit mh.co.za to find one.

Related: The 3-Minute Hack to Improve Your HIIT Performance

4. The Result

“My 6-week follow-up surprised both my doctor and me. My total cholesterol level had dropped by more than 40%, and the lowdensity lipid (LDL) cholesterol (the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol) had reduced by more than 50%, to within the normal range! There was also a slight increase in my high-density lipid (HDL, or ‘good’) cholesterol. My energy levels are better than they’ve been in over a decade. I’m no longer overweight, I look good; and most importantly, I feel good.”

The lesson: The best kind of medicine? What you put on your plate (it has no side-effects).

READ MORE ON: belly off exclusive story heart heart attack heart disease heart health motivation risk