UAE: I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day, says heart attack survivor

The father of two is using his second chance at life to urge others to kick the habit and lead healthier lifestyles

by

Ashwani Kumar

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Photo: Muhammed Waqas Akram
Photo: Muhammed Waqas Akram

Published: Thu 29 Sep 2022, 7:00 AM

Surviving a heart attack has been a life-changing experience for Pakistani expat Muhammed Waqas Akram. From smoking up to 40 cigarettes a day, the 37-year-old Abu Dhabi resident has now kicked the habit for good.

“I have been living in the UAE for seven years now", Akram said. "I was working with the UAE Exchange until 2020. Since then, I have been looking for a job, and last year during the holy month of Ramadan, I joined LLH Hospital as a volunteer for their Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

During my break time, I smoked a cigarette. After a while, I felt a pain in the left side of my chest. I also started sweating.”

Immediately, Akram went to the emergency department, but soon collapsed.

“I just remembered getting my ECG done and then I fell unconscious. I only woke up the next day to find that I had suffered a cardiac arrest. I was gone for almost for 15-20 minutes without a heartbeat and was given electric shocks to revive me.”

After getting a second chance, Akram regrets almost letting a cigarette cut his life short.

“Smoking was a habit for close to two decades. It started during my college days, whereI used to smoke up to 40 cigarettes a day. I used to consume red meat a lot; my office job meant there was a lack of physical activity, and my cholesterol level got higher. After losing my job, my stress and hypertension also got elevated.

All these factors lead to a heart attack.”

For the past year and a half, the father of two has been a changed man with a healthy lifestyle.

“Now, I burn calories not cigarettes. I have quit smoking completely; I feel very healthy now. Even my friends are happy that I have quit. I have also cut down on my consumption of red meat, and am almost a vegetarian now.

I avoid oily food and eat more fruits. I continue to take my medicines. I don’t feel like I ever had an attack; I am leading a normal life.”

Marking World Heart Day, Akram urged others to quit smoking and have a heart healthy lifestyle.

“Life is a precious thing. It’s in your hand to make the best out of it. Don’t puff it away.”

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