Barcelona, Spain – 17 April 2023: Spanish footballer, Iker Casillas, was awarded an EHRA Gold Medal for services to cardiovascular health yesterday at EHRA 2023, the annual congress of the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) – a branch of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
In 2019, Iker, captain of the Spanish 2010 World Cup-winning team, suffered a heart attack during a normal training session. Unable to breathe, Iker initially believed he was suffering from a grass allergy, but doctors on the scene quickly identified that he was having a heart attack. Fortunately, Iker was rushed to hospital where he had acute balloon angioplasty – a procedure that saved his life.
EHRA President, Prof. Jose Luis Merino, FESC, FEHRA said; “Up to 50% of patients who suffer a heart attack may not even make it to hospital, highlighting the importance of recognising the warning signs of a heart attack and seeking immediate medical attentioni. Globally, 14 million people die each year from heart attacks and stroke, with one third of these happening prematurely in people under 70 years of age. ii ”
Since this life-changing episode, Iker has been a proponent of the importance of heart health and the need to take action to prevent others suffering heart attacks. Iker is also an active ambassador for Idoven – a health tech company advancing early detection and precision medicine for cardiology with artificial intelligence. iii
In an interview with Prof. Merino, Iker describes what having a heart attack felt like; “As I fell to the ground, I was desperately trying to get oxygen and realised it wasn’t coming. I was writhing in pain. When the doctor told me I was having a heart attack, I couldn’t believe it. I do sports, live a healthy lifestyle, and was feeling good and strong. There was a big gap between me what I thought was happening – a grass allergy – and what the doctor was telling me.”
EHRA President, Prof. Jose Luis Merino, FESC, FEHRA said; “Raising awareness of the risk factors associated with heart attacks and the telltale signs that indicate someone is experiencing a heart attack, is critical to reducing the number of preventable deaths. The work that Iker is doing to support that education process in the public arena is fantastic and is why we are delighted that he is accepting the Gold Medal from EHRA today.”
On receiving the award, Iker said; “I am very grateful for this award and honoured that the European Heart Rhythm Society thought of me to represent the cardiovascular world and everything that heart issues entail. I feel like I am very fortunate to have survived and now want to help people understand that awareness and prevention are necessary and that we must not neglect our health”.
Iker continued; “After what happened to me in 2019, I’ve learned so much about cardiovascular problems and everything that surrounds a possible heart attack. I’ve stopped being afraid of it, I’m better informed and am now aware of how much organisations like EHRA are doing to help prevent cardiovascular disease.”
Spain is leading the way in terms of cardiovascular health and was the first EU country to announce the creation of a national cardiovascular health plan – a plan developed in collaboration between government, regional authorities, and cardiovascular stakeholders. The European Alliance for Cardiovascular Health (EACH) is urging all countries to follow this model, and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), of which EHRA is a branch, is actively supporting this endeavor through its member network.
Know the signs of a heart attack – information from the European Society of Cardiology
- Typically pressure or a burning or tightening sensation in your chest.
- Pain may extend to your left or right arm, to the throat, neck, back, stomach or jaw.
- Sometimes sudden shortness of breath.
- Often accompanied by severe sweating and nausea.
If any such symptoms occur and last for more than 5 minutes, call an ambulance.
Many patients report having similar symptoms coming and going in the days before their full-blown heart attack. Do not ignore these warning signs.
- Symptoms can come and go, lasting for several minutes at a time, in the days and weeks before a full-blown heart attack.
- When exercising, walking fast, or climbing a stair, you may notice tightness in the chest or unusual shortness of breath.
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