Gemma Atkinson was only 17 when her father, David, died of a heart attack at the age of 52. The 36-year-old, who is engaged to Strictly Come Dancing professional Gorka Marquez, has now spoken of her heartache after teaming up with footballer Fabrice Muamba to open a healthy heart clinic, Venturi Cardiology.
At the launch, both stars underwent heart checks with consultant preventative cardiologist Dr Scott Murray, one of the founders of Venturi Cardiology in Warrington. The pair called for greater awareness of heart health and how everyone should know how to do CPR and have easy access to a defibrillator.
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Gemma also revealed that would like to see routine heart tests made as standard as mammograms are, saying: "When he was only 52, my dad, David, had two heart attacks. The first happened when he was at work – his colleagues found him hunched over his desk unable to move or breathe - and he was taken to hospital.
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"The second one came three days later and was bigger, in his sleep, while he was still in hospital and that killed him."
She added: "Doctors said that they thought the cause was stress-related. At the time, he was very fit and healthy, didn't smoke and only drank occasionally. He managed a company and was working a lot and travelling all over the world. He had a few chest pains leading up to the first heart attack which he thought was simply indigestion and so he took some heartburn tables and carried on."
Gemma at the launch of Venturi Cardiology
Reflecting on her family's heartache, Gemma explained: "It was a huge shock for my older sister Nina and I to lose our dad when he was so young. He was fit and healthy and strong and he was the last person you would expect to collapse with a heart problem. There's no history of heart problems in our family as far as I know.
"Since I lost my dad, I've taken care to make my lifestyle as good as possible. I try to live as healthily as I can with my food choices and the exercise I do as I'm fully aware that if my dad could have a heart attack then anyone could."
The actress was joined by Fabrice Muamba
Gemma and Gorka, who got engaged on Valentine's Day, are doting parents to their daughter Mia, who turns two in July. "Gorks knows what to do to look after himself and I'm very careful about what Mia eats and drinks because I want her to make healthy choices for herself," continued the actress.
"She's only ever had water for instance and not juice or fizzy drinks. Her favourite food is avocado and beetroot. I'm very aware that she sees what I do and will naturally emulate me."
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