Being fit and healthy and exercising regularly doesn’t make you immune to heart problems. AASMA DAY talks to Zumba teacher Sarah Walton who is on a mission to help hearts after a sudden diagnosis of problems herself
Losing her fit and healthy grandad to a sudden heart aneurysm at 69 as a little girl made Sarah Walton feel strongly about supporting heart causes.
Sarah, 36, who lives in Adlington, near Chorley, explains: “My grandad Bernard Langton died from a heart aneurysm at the age of 69 and it was a shock as he was fit as anything.
“My great grandad also passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 72 so I have always been passionate about supporting heart charities.”
Sarah, who is married to Steven and has children Callum, 18, Emily, 15, and Alistair, 12, was already a supporter of Heart UK and had raised money for the charity through a sponsored swim.
But after recently being diagnosed with a heart problem herself, Sarah has stepped up her efforts to raise awareness and money for the cause and has a raft of runs planned to boost funds.
Sarah, who is a Zumba instructor, has always been into fitness and exercise, so when she started feeling out of sorts, she knew something was wrong.
Sarah explains: “I have always enjoyed exercise and was very sporty at school. Football always used to be my thing and then I got into running and loved the sense of freedom it gave me.
“Around Christmas time, I noticed I was feeling unwell and dizzy and then I collapsed and blacked out during a Zumba class I was teaching.
“As I am always very busy, people thought it was a sign I needed to take it easy.
“But I knew it was something else as I hadn’t been exercising hard when I blacked out and I knew it was something unusual for me.”
Sarah went to see her GP and as they knew she could do a lot of exercise before exerting herself, they sent her to hospital for a scan.
After undergoing tests, it was discovered that one of Sarah’s heart valves wasn’t closing properly which was causing the dizziness and blackouts.
Sarah says: “I also have low blood pressure and this combined with the heart valve problem was causing me to have dizzy spells when I was exercising. I am now going to hospital for regular scans and am on medication to stop me going dizzy. I am also on steroids. However, it is being kept under control and it only interferes with my life when I am exercising.”
Sarah is now planning to add to her impressive list of fundraising efforts by running the Great North Run in September for Heart Research UK.
She is then intending to follow this up with the Chester Marathon, the Manchester Half Marathon and the Leicester Marathon in October.
Sarah has already run the London Marathon for Heart UK and has raised around £3,000 for the charity since last September.
She also has other fundraising ventures planned including Zumbathons, raffles, football tournaments and a Christmas party.
Sarah’s family, friends and those who attend her classes have all supported her efforts, as have local businesses and schools. Sarah wants to inspire others to join her in the Great North Run.
She says: “Being into fitness myself, I feel quite passionate about people keeping their hearts healthy by exercising.
“Even if you have heart problems, it is important to keep your heart strong through exercise. Exercise is very important and a must.
“It means so much more to me to run for such a special charity as Heart Research UK.
“When you realise what other people are going through, it makes every mile even more rewarding.
“Fund-raising has given me a purpose. It has filled a gap in my life. You only get one chance at looking after your heart.”
n If you have been inspired to take part in the Great North Run, join Sarah and the rest of #TeamHeartResearchUK by applying for your guaranteed charity place. To find out more, visit: www.heartresearch.org.uk/gnr or call 0113 234 7474.