What's the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?
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The pair’s sketches are still fondly remembered today, and tonight’s BBC programme Morecambe & Wise in America provides a selection of some of the best, including a guest appearance from The Beatles, who joined Morecambe and Wise for a performance of Moonlight Bay back in 1964. At the height of their career, the 1977 Christmas episode of their show raked in a whopping 28 million viewers, solidifying the two in British comedy history. However, since Morecambe’s death back in 1984 at the age of 58, both his widow Joane Bartholomew and son Gary Morecambe have spoken about the pressure Morecambe put himself under, a toxic trait which they believe ultimately contributed to his multiple heart attacks.
The star’s first major heart attack occurred in 1968, whilst he was driving back to a hotel outside of Leeds. This was followed by a second in 1979, which the star only reportedly survived due to pioneering heart surgery.
Following his second heart attack the star had bypass surgery to unclog his coronary arteries, but the continued stress he felt about his career contributed to a third heart attack, the one that would kill him.
Despite his unrivalled success in the entertainment industry, his wife of 31 years, Joan, revealed that he was always so anxious that their next show would be their last.
Joan has said in a past interview with the Radio Times: “It’s no wonder Eric had a heart attack. He was working so hard and taking so few breaks.
“He always worried the next show would be the last, always worried they wouldn’t survive.”
This worry and concern for his career was also noticed by his son Gary, who said his father was not “emotionally equipped” for the limelight.
In an interview with The Oldie magazine, Gary said: “Being at the top of the entertainment tree was something that never really sat well with my father.
“While his goal had always been to make an honest career as an entertainer, becoming a living legend had not been on his agenda.
“I don’t believe he was emotionally equipped with what goes with that elevated position. He had no coping mechanism.
“There was no blueprint from his childhood to prepare him for what was to come. He was quite stressed by nature – always on the go. Not one to sit and meditate.
“Eric’s constant need to perform and entertain had a profound impact on our family. Put simply, he burned himself out. It was at Jimmy Corrigan’s club in Batley, West Yorkshire, in 1968, that he had his first heart attack, which almost killed him.
“Suddenly, we had a very frail, elderly man convalescing at home – or so he seemed.”
Writing in the MailOnline back in 2013, Gary went on to say that the move from BBC to Thames Television in 1978 was not the right thing to do due to his father’s “failing health”. And no sooner had the first shows been transmitted, Morecambe was back in hospital.
“Did comedy kill him? Purely in terms of his health, it clearly didn’t do him any favours,” Gary added.
“The irony is that he wouldn’t have had it any other way. I once asked him if he could relive his life, what he would alter. He answered, without a moment’s hesitation, ‘I’d do it all the same way … only quicker!’”
A heart attack is a serious medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked – typically by a blood clot.
Key signs and tell-tale symptoms that can indicate someone is having a heart attack includes:
- Chest pain – a feeling of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across your chest
- Pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
- An overwhelming feeling of anxiety (similar to a panic attack)
- Coughing or wheezing.
The British Heart Foundation explains that stress alone cannot cause a heart attack. But coping with stress alongside bad habits like smoking or eating junk food can increase your risk of the life-threatening condition.
Before his first heart attack, it was reported that Morecambe was smoking 60 cigarettes a day and drinking heavily. Later he gave up his cigarette smoking habit for a pipe instead, a lifestyle choice that is now not recommended by health professionals.
Unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking heavily, and an unhealthy diet can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. These are risk factors that increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
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