16-time grand slam winner and Olympic gold medallist Todd Woodbridge is a legend of doubles tennis. The 51-year-old has kept in shape since retirement with a regular fitness routine, but that didn’t prevent a sudden heart attack during a standard workout last week.
The player-turned-commentator maintains a regular work out routine at his home gym in Melbourne and keeps active while away from home. That wasn’t enough to prevent the mild heart attack. Woodbridge says the incident was a “wake up call” and is urging Australian’s to be vigilant and to get regularly checked, particularly for genetic and hereditary health issues.
“It’s been a wakeup call to me to make sure I look after myself. If it can happen to me, it shows that it can happen to anybody.” Woodbridge told the Herald Sun. “I consider (myself) to lead a pretty good fit healthy lifestyle – I keep active, I eat well, I do all the right things, I enjoy doing that.”
Woodbridge described the incident, which occurred at the start of a workout, to Wide World of Sports, “I’d done a bit of a warm-up, started to do some weights, and I got a bit of a feeling, like one finger being pushed into the middle of my chest. It started to spread across my chest. It wasn’t pain, it was like a heavy pressing. I was short of breath, got the sweats, I felt nausea which made me go pale white.” Rather than ignoring the pain or taking a break, Woodbridge made his way to a hospital with his wife Natasha.
Woodbridge’s health scare is the latest in a series of incidents involving a slew of Australian athletes. Earlier this year cricketer Shane Warne passed away after he suffered a heart attack. AFL premiership winner Dean Wallis also underwent surgery this year after a major heart attack but survived. Warne, Woodbridge and Wallis were all in their early fifties at the time of their incidents.
Woodbridge has two brothers who passed away in their fifties, leading to him being extra cautious about his own health. “One of the things that really stood out when I was going through all my tests is that I had really high cholesterol,” he said. A history of health issues with his parents and brothers meant that Woodbridge was aware he was at risk of a heart attack but didn’t take steps to protect himself. “I sort of knew I would have that, but I hadn’t done anything about it over the last couple of years.”
As a heart attack survivor, Woodbridge is urging Australian’s to be proactive and get checked. “The message is don’t put off what you’ve been saying you’ll do. A day becomes a week, which becomes a month, then six months and before you know it a year has gone by and you haven’t done what you need to do for your health,” he said.
A heart attack will usually be preceded by pain in the chest or arms, which causes continued discomfort. The pain might feel like unusual pressure or squeezing. Feeling light-headed or weak, as well as cold sweats and shortness of breath are other symptoms.
The three key risk factors of cardio-vascular issues are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Lifestyle, age and family history can also determine the likelihood of a heart attack. You can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factor you can control: lifestyle.
Due to advances in medical technology, heart attacks are not as deadly as they used to be. Around 12% of heart attacks are fatal.
There are a number of lifestyle changes that can lower cholesterol, specifically diet and exercise. Cutting down on saturated fats and unhealthy food is the most effective way of lowering cholesterol. Exercising more and limiting consumption of alcohol and smoking are other ways to reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of a heart attack.