James Martin: TV chef says heart disease has been an issue in his family for generations

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James Martin, 48, has built a busy, high-profile TV career. From working as an anchor on Ready Steady Cook to a regular guest on chat shows such as Richard and Judy, as well as a feature writer in Cosmopolitan magazine. James knows the importance of hard work but is also all too familiar with the importance of health. Aware of the heart disease risk that runs in his family and the effect long working hours was having on his health, James knew he needed to make crucial changes to his diet and overall his lifestyle.

James’ male line in his family has experienced heart problems, the chef shared.

His late paternal grandfather died of heart disease, and his father, formerly the resident chef of Castle Howard in Yorkshire, has already suffered three heart attacks.

James saw the need for a dramatic weight loss in order to break the pattern and significantly reduce his risk.

“Heart disease has been an issue in my family for generations,” he told The Herald.

“My dad likes his food deep-fried with lots of butter, but he doesn’t like running it off.

“I don’t do much exercise either. When you’re a big bloke like my grandfather, father and me, it’s not as easy to stay fit as it is for someone who’s a bit smaller.

“So, I decided to examine my diet and I made a conscious decision to cook fresh food at home.

“I no longer stuff my face with really bad things such as takeaway pizza, Mars bars and fizzy soft drinks, which I used to have tons of during my working day, just like almost every other chef in the country.

“Now I eat fish twice a week as well as loads of vegetables and fresh fruit.”

He has also started using a pedometer in the kitchen, and regularly clocks up 16 miles a day.

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Heart attack risk in high wage workers who work long hours is similar to that of high wage workers who have normal work hours, notes Health Harvard.

The health site continues: “Stroke risk was higher in all those who worked long hours, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

“The reasons why overwork and cardiovascular risk are linked are not entirely clear.

“Hormonal factors, such as elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine, may be involved.

“Overwork and work stress are also associated with many cardiac risk factors.

“Those who work long hours tend to have unhealthy lifestyles, with less exercise, worse diets, and higher consumption of alcohol and tobacco.”

Eating a healthy balanced diet, keeping to a healthy weight and being more physically active are the best ways to prevent heart disease.

James explained how he overhauled his diet and lifestyle: “A good healthy diet is a combination of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, and with exercise you’ll keep the weight off.

“I really believe that most of the problems surrounding what we eat – such as bird flu, mad cow and foot-and-mouth disease – are because we humans delve too much into the science of food when we should be concentrating on the past and all that is great about our agricultural heritage.

“I think we’re messing around too much with our food.

“We’ve gone from being a nation of farmers to a nation of food scares. We should be asking why that has happened.”

Symptoms of heart disease

The most common symptoms of coronary heart disease are chest pain (angina) and breathlessness notes the NHS.

But the health body says some people may not have any symptoms before they’re diagnosed.

It advises: “If your coronary arteries become partially blocked, it can cause chest pain (angina). This can be a mild, uncomfortable feeling similar to indigestion.

“However, a severe angina attack can cause a painful feeling of heaviness or tightness, usually in the centre of the chest, which may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach.

“Angina is often triggered by physical activity or stressful situations.”

If you experience any of these symptoms, see your GP.

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