Chef Sat Bains opens up about his recovery from his near-death experience | Latest news

Chef Sat Bains opens up about his recovery from his near-death experience

Nottingham's double Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains has told how he overhauled his lifestyle after being lucky to survive a widow-maker heart attack.

It’s now three years since Sat had what’s known as a widow-maker heart attack – and he’s thankful every day that he’s here to tell the tale. 

“Since it happened, I’ve been on an incredibly life-changing, mental and physical journey,” said Sat.

Middle-aged and with South Asian parents, Sat, 53, knew his cholesterol was an issue. But as a gym-goer  following a keto diet, he was sure he was pretty healthy.

“I thought I had a really good balance - work, training, diet, and sleep,” said Sat. “And then I had a massive heart attack. I just didn’t think it would happen to me.”

He was working out when he felt a sharp pain in his chest, which he assumed was muscular. He went to the supermarket and then for a walk around Wollaton Park with his wife and business partner Amanda and remembers feeling agitated and short of breath. When the pain spread to his jaw and arm, he dialled 999.

 “I’d ruptured one artery, and blocked most of the others, so just two or three millilitres of blood were pumping through one artery. The doctors and surgeons were surprised I was still alive because of how severe the heart attack was and the size of the blood clot – they call that type of heart attack a widow-maker.

“The doctor told Amanda, you're very lucky because he should have died this morning. It was that close.”

An emergency op at City Hospital was the start of a long journey back to health. Sat was discharged after 10 days, 17kg lighter and with a cocktail of medication. He had to be waited on hand and foot because he was so poorly and weak that he couldn’t do anything for himself, which he hated.

He contacted Dr Neil Williams, senior lecturer in exercise physiology and nutrition at Nottingham Trent University, who’d advised him before an Everest base camp trip in 2015. They worked together on a new cookbook, Eat to Your Heart's Content.

“I had to relearn everything that I thought I knew,” said Sat. “I had to change things in my life. I knew Neil would be able to help me achieve what I needed to.”

By the time he left hospital, Sat was struggling to walk very far. He had no appetite and credits his head chef’s chicken broth in getting him back on his feet. He realised he needed to overhaul his diet and lifestyle.

“Losing my appetite was strange. I just couldn’t eat, I couldn’t walk,” said Sat.

Sat wanted to create a low-cholesterol diet, combining Mediterranean and Japanese diets to keep his signature punchy flavours.

"I’ve done a lot of research and I’m by no means an expert on healthy eating, but overwhelmingly, the evidence points to wholefoods – the ones that have been the least-handled, manipulated or ultra-processed – being better for us, so the kind of diet we all would have been eating years ago.”

He now eats lean protein, beans, fruit and veg, eggs, and good fats such as avocados, olive oil and nuts. He still eats red meat - just not as often - and has swapped out his 200g bars of Dairy Milk to a couple of Freddos a week.

He thanked all the staff at City Hospital who cared for him. “I feel very lucky that I’m still here – and I intend to make the most of it – and that means making sure I maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Amanda said. “It was a massive shock - I could have lost him. But he's still here and he's doing brilliantly now.”

Jacob Chacko, NUH Consultant Cardiac Surgeon, said: “Widow-makers – or anterior ST-segment elevation myocardial infarctions (STEMI) – are a critical type of heart attack caused by a blockage in the coronary artery that supplies the majority of blood to the heart muscle. Timely diagnosis and treatment are essential as these events can lead to severe consequences, including death.

“Despite the name, widow-makers can affect both men and women, with common risk factors including smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and a family history of heart disease.

“We're thrilled to hear of the great outcome and It is encouraging to see efforts promoting healthy eating, a lifestyle choice that we can all strive to incorporate into our daily routines for better heart health.”

Eat to Your Heart's Content features easy recipes using supermarket ingredients.

“It's not a preachy diet book," said Sat. "I love food and I know how important it is to us all. I want people to realise that eating healthily doesn’t mean you have to compromise on flavour.”

And Sat’s advice to anyone else going through a similar journey?

“Moving forward takes time - you can’t rush your recovery. Listen to the professionals. It does get better, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel – just look at me!”

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