Gary Hanson, 60, believed he had atrial fibrillation (AF) – a dangerous heart rhythm condition and a major cause of stroke – for at least two years, jokingly putting his anxiety and irregular heart rhythms down to supporting Leeds United.
AF happens when the electrical impulses in the top chambers of the heart fire chaotically when they should be steady and regular, causing them to quiver or twitch. This can cause blood to pool in these chambers which increases the risk of clots, life-threatening strokes and a decline in brain function. People with AF are five times more likely to have a stroke, and the stroke is more likely to be debilitating with a lower chance of surviving.
Gary's life changed forever during a chance meeting with a friend.
"I tried the watch on and it basically said go to your doctor", Gary said.
"I did it and it was confirmed, I was diagnosed, I couldn't believe it."
Gary now uses his own smart watch to keep a track of his condition.
He is currently on medication and awaiting his second hospital procedure.
Gary, from Worksop, said he was not overweight, walked at least 10,000 steps a day and doesn't drink or smoke.
"My watch now keeps track of my life", he said.
"It keeps all of my records and medical issues and gives me guidance on how to help."
Gary said he has now "learnt to live" with AF.
"I have a lot to live for", he told the YEP.
His incredible story comes amid the release of pioneering new research lead by Leeds professors.
AF has increased by 72 per cent in England over the last two decades, according to research funded by the British Heart Foundation which has been published in The Lancet Regional Health.
The condition now outstrips the combined number of people in England diagnosed with the four most common types of cancer - while exceeding the number of people living with heart failure.
In pioneering research headed by professors based at the University of Leeds, anonymised GP and hospital data from 3.4 million people in England was analysed for those diagnosed with AF for the first time between 1998 and 2017.
The participants included were representative of age, sex, ethnicity and socioeconomic status for the UK.
The number of people diagnosed with AF in England each year increased 72 per cent from 117,880 in 1998 to 202,333 in 2017.
Cases increased in men and women across all age groups, the research found.
Professor Chris Gale, Consultant Cardiologist at the University of Leeds, said: “Changes to healthcare are driven by data, and we’ve created the first blueprint of AF that lays bare the growing impact it is having on society. Our study paints a clear picture of the trends and gaps that need to be urgently addressed to achieve health equity and prevent unnecessary strokes.
"We hope that it can be used as a reference point to determine if new interventions and health strategies are successful in curtailing the rising tide of cases and burden that comes with AF.”