John Y

Age at interview: 80
Brief Outline:

John Y describes himself as ‘overweight but not obese’. After the age of fifty, he has had three heart attacks that required heart surgery each time. Later, he was also diagnosed with kidney disease and had a renal artery bypass graft done. Following his liver surgery - and due to a lack of stomach muscle function – his back has greatly deteriorated. At present, his physical activity level is limited and he feels it affects his ability to lose weight. He eats healthily and is applying several rules including, small portion sizes, no snacking, no alcohol or sugary drinks and drinks plenty of water.


Married, one daughter; retired company director. Ethnic background: white English, one adult daughter.

More about me...

John Y is eighty years old and says that in his youth was an athletic young man playing several sport including competitive swimming, water polo and weight lifting. Later, he went on to study biomedical sciences and got involved in computer work. He describes his work life as a ‘sedentary one’. When he was fifty-two years old he suffered a heart attack and had five coronary artery by-pass grafts done. John had had a demanding job that included lots of travelling in the UK and abroad and took early retirement. During that time he described himself as ‘overweight but not obese’ and not being particularly concerned about his weight. He tried to keep active by swimming and running and practicing scuba diving when on holidays. However, his work life had an effect on his diet. Travelling for work often meant eating on the go, snacking and eating lots of readymade planes meals. His consultant suggested to him to slow down which he subsequently did. Eight years after his first heart attack, he had a second one and doctors had to rebuild four of the original artery by-pass grafts. Then, and after eight more years, he had a third heart attack and he had three stents put in. Since then he has had no other coronary heart problems.

At one of his heart check-up appointments, he was sent by the consultant for tests to check his kidney function and he was later diagnosed with renal disease. He underwent a renal artery bypass graft to unblock his left kidney. This was successful and John explains that for the last fifteen years ‘I’ve been stable on kidney functions’. However, ever since his renal surgery he has suffered with severe back problems. He describes, that this is because he has no stomach muscles function so his back muscles have to do all the work. He has seen two pain management consultants, a sports physiotherapist and has had acupuncture. His back pain is not constant but he has noticed that his flare-ups are getting worse. On a good day, he can walk about a kilometer but with stops in between. John wonders why this is happening to someone like him - a former athlete. He has tried several therapies: epidural injections, facet joint and steroids injections as well as acupuncture but none of them have improved his condition.

John feels that his health problems are affecting his ability to manage his weight. He says that according to BMI measurement his ideal weight should be ten and a half stone and he is currently pushing towards twelve stone. As a former athlete, he knows that exercise will improve his fitness levels which in turn, would help him lose weight.

One thing that John is able to influence is his diet, and has put several rules in place. For instance, he doesn’t overeat, doesn’t snack between meals, doesn’t drink alcohol or sugary drinks and drinks plenty of water. He and his wife are not following a particular diet plan but they are eating a healthy and well-balance diet. He says that they regulate their calories intake so if they have a celebratory meal one day, they eat less food the next.


John Y had entered a self-perpetuating circle between being overweight and heart disease.


I think it is a circular question.

What came first? [Laugh]

Yeah the heart attack came first and then that was controlled and my. I was able to do all the exercise and things so the weight didn’t go up. Then the second heart attack came on and shortly after the second heart attack the back problems started. So I wasn’t able to do the exercise regime that I’d done on the previous ones. And then the back problems got worse and the kidney problem came in and the then the third set of heart attacks came on. And the problems with the exercising increased. So I think it was kind of going as a self-perpetuating circle. And if I could, if I could brave that but the only place that it is breakable is the problems with the back with the pains that stop me doing the other things.


John Y advocates community allotment schemes to help people on low incomes to grow and exchange fresh food.


What I am saying is you don’t have to eat badly because you are financially poor if you are given the opportunities. And I think there are quite a few set up in East London haven’t they recently where the council give a certain amount of thing for…


Of land for allotments and then it’s a community allotment so the people who are good at growing strawberries, grow strawberries and the people who are good at growing potatoes, grow potatoes and they do exchanges. There is no money involved in it. So, so the cost is not there.

It’s pushing people, it’s…


It’s involving people involving people in it and showing them what can be done without pushing them and saying, “You must be doing this. You must do that.” You know, you’re wasting your money.” And what have you. It’s actually involving them in it. So which is where these allotment type things, you know, do come in because everybody is involved. It’s a community thing. You learn from experience and you learn from people who already have the experience.


John Y’s diet deteriorated when he travelled a lot for work. He did not anticipate that he would have an MI (myocardial infarction) in his early 50s.


I was eating on an as-and-when basis because sometimes I would drive 500 miles in a day and do a day’s work. So I would maybe leave home at 6:00 in the morning and drive up to Edinburgh and then do a day’s work with the people in Edinburgh and then drive back home. So it really was you ate when you could. So it could be biscuits or it could be chocolate. It could be crisps or it could be we would go out to lunch with the customer or stay overnight and stay in a hotel and have a two or three course dinner. So it was very much up and down, nothing planned. And basically I think that was because I just never gave a thought to, you know, at the age of sort of early 50s that I was going to have a very serious MI.

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