x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

'Heart attack shocked me into getting fit', says Abu Dhabi resident

The 63-year-old German is now a regular gym-goer and says he is as fit as he was in his 30s, after losing nearly 30kg.

German expatriate Gerd Pfeiffer, 63, at his gym at the Park Rotana Residence in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National
German expatriate Gerd Pfeiffer, 63, at his gym at the Park Rotana Residence in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // When Gerd Pfeiffer nearly died from a heart attack, he realised he needed to take immediate action to alter his lifestyle.

The 63-year-old father of two from Cologne in Germany is now a regular at the gym, has lost nearly 30 kilograms and says he is as fit as he was in his 30s.

Living proof that it is never too late to change your ways, he made the decision after doctors saved his life when his heart stopped beating.

"I was 54. It was too early to die and it made me really think," he says. "I thought, I have to do something. I discussed it with the doctor and the first thing was to lose weight slowly, to exercise and to get the blood circulation working properly.

"I wanted to get another 25 or 30 years in life out of it. To do that, I need to set up a good basis, which is good health."

Mr Pfeiffer woke up on New Year's Eve 2004 in Germany struggling to breathe. He went to a hospital but while he was being seen by a doctor, his heart stopped and he was taken to an intensive care unit.

"I was in there for two weeks," he said. "My problem was that I had too high cholesterol. I didn't know."

At the time, Mr Pfeiffer admits his health was not a priority. "I was heavy. I was 108kg at the time. I travelled. I went to Spain and had a lot of wine and all the good meals. I never had time to do sport."

He used to smoke 60 cigarettes a day, and after he quit in 1993 his weight ballooned by 10kg. When he started a new job in 2000 that involved travel but not much physical activity, his weight shot up again.

Despite this, his heart attack still came out of the blue. "No one understood," he said. "I was always a calm person. I had very low blood pressure. It was the cholesterol."

A change of diet and a gym regime followed, and nearly nine years on Mr Pfeiffer now weighs about 80kg.

And a move to the UAE four years ago did not halt his progress. He goes to the gym every other day and completes 15 minutes of exercise at home every morning.

"I have lost another four or five kilograms in the Middle East since I arrived in 2009," he said. "It's just an excuse when people blame the lifestyle here. I go and buy fresh vegetables, fresh fish and cook my own things. It's cheaper."

Dr Jairam Aithal, a cardiovascular consultant at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said Mr Pfeiffer was an great example to others.

"The fact that he took control of his life and got 30kg off his weight would significantly reduce the chance of him having another event in the near future."

He emphasised the importance of controlling cholesterol, of which there are two types - good and bad.

"People with a high bad cholesterol have a 40 per cent higher risk of developing either a heart attack or a paralytic stroke or kidney problems," he said.