WHEN Malcolm Sowdon struggled to get to the top of the stairs without collapsing, he suspected he might be ill.
Tests the following day revealed his heart was dilated and Malcolm – who weighed 18.5 stone at the time – was referred to Queen Alexandra Hospital for an urgent heart operation to have a metal prosthetic valve inserted.
Now five years on, he’s lost more than five stone, changed his diet and is more fit than ever thanks to the research and support of the British Heart Foundation.
And in a bid to give something back to the charity, he has signed up to take part in its 35-mile Round the Harbours bike ride, which is supported by The News.
Malcolm, 63, of Bury Close, Gosport, said: ‘The British Heart Foundation saved my life. It was thanks to its research that the doctors could save me.
‘My heart was working on overdrive because the valve wasn’t shutting properly and it was getting bigger and bigger.
‘It was scary when I found out, but I was just so relieved that there was something they could do about it.’
After having the operation in 2007, Malcolm was determined to change his lifestyle. He started cycling and swimming and switched to a healthy diet.
Malcolm, who worked as a wedding photographer before the operation, said: ‘The old weight had just crept up on me over the years.
‘I was quite unhealthy and even though my job was active I didn’t really do any exercise.
‘That all changed as soon as I came out of hospital and now I’m fit as a butcher’s dog.’
Malcolm first signed up to Round the Harbours bike ride in 2008 – the year after his operation – and has taken part every year since alongside his family and friends.
He is one of 354 people who have already signed up for the ride, which takes place on June 10 and passes through Southsea, Havant, Fareham and Gosport.
And now he’s urging readers to do the same to help organisers reach their ambitious target of having 2,012 riders at the event in honour of the year of the Olympics.
He added: ‘The work that the BHF does is just incredible, everyone should do their bit to support it.
‘Lots and lots of people die from heart conditions every year and even just raising awareness would make a huge difference.
‘Hopefully this ride will make people pay a bit more attention to their own heart and keep an eye on their fitness levels.
‘It’s something that I will keep doing as long as I’m breathing and I think everyone else should too.’
To take part in Round the Harbours bike ride, call 0808 100 2109, email firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to bhf.org.uk/roundtheharbours
Fees in advance are £15 for an adult or £7.50 per child. Entry on the day costs £20 for adults and £10 for children.
Although it is a family friendly event, participants are reminded that the route is road based.