Just like Shane Warne, I went on a hardcore liquid-only diet which transformed my life… and then I had a heart attack at 53. Thankfully, I survived mine – but only because I thought it was Covid.
Two years ago, almost to the day, I thought I was coming down with one of Australia’s first cases of the new virus sweeping the globe. In the previous 10 days, I’d been to two gigs in Sydney, dancing like a dervish with thousands of potentially-infected sweaty fans.
For a week, I gradually felt more and more ill until I had a sleepless night with burning lungs as the infection seemingly slipped from my throat into my chest. By 6am on March 20, 2020, I finally gave in and called an ambulance.
In hindsight, I only called because I thought it was Covid – or else I’d have almost certainly died. If, like Warne, 52, it had happened at the start of a boys’ trip to Thailand, I suspect I’d have tried to ride it out… with similar consequences.
Like Shane Warne, I went on an intense juice-fast diet. Like Shane Warne, I later had a heart attack – but I survived mine by a curious quirk of fate and timing
The paramedics were there for me within seconds and in between taking the mickey out of me for going to see Hot Chip and New Order at my age, they hooked me up to an ECG.
‘Your heart seems to be under a bit of strain, mate,’ said one. ‘Trust me,’ I said confidently. ‘I know about heart attacks. I am NOT having a heart attack.’
I thought I was an expert after a false alarm 12 years earlier had made me give up smoking when my lifestyle was appalling. After I cut out the smokes though, my weight crept up and I looked and felt awful – until in 2011, I watched a documentary, Fat, Sick And Nearly Dead, with ex-Sea Eagles CEO Joe Cross.
He revealed how, like me, he’d hit middle age and the excesses of his youth had caught up with him so he devised a juice-fast diet. He advocated concentrating nutrients from fruit and veg into a drink without filling up on roughage and cellulose.
Within days, he’d transformed himself, and then went on to travel across the US, transforming the lives of others. It was hardcore but inspiring. I got on board. I bought a high-end juicer, HUGE boxes of fruit and vegetables and I started my juicing journey in November, 2011.
If, like Warne, 52, it had happened at the start of a boy’s trip to Thailand, I suspect I’d have tried to ride it out… with similar consequences. The luxury resort where Warne died is pictured
In 2011, I watched a documentary, Fat, Sick And Nearly Dead, with ex-Sea Eagles CEO Joe Cross about how he transformed himself through a juice-fast diet
Warne’s manager James Erskine said Shane would go all or nothing with his liquid diet, swapping ‘lasagne rolls’ for nothing but ‘black or green juice’ for days at a time, including the two weeks prior to his tragic heart attack death in Thailand last Friday.
I was the same. I set out wanting to try to do it for three days. That became a week, then two, and then finally I managed to stick it out for three full weeks. It was tough, time-consuming and messy. No-one mentions how much cleaning these juicers require, and you can only really do it if you’re working from home.
You need acres of kale, carrots, apples and celery. Get the mix right and it tastes like nectar. Get it wrong and it tastes like literal mud. But after three days, I already felt so much better. Walking uphill was no longer even slightly a struggle. I had untapped energy I’d never known before.
Extending it to a week was an easy decision. I rarely felt hungry. If you get hungry, just make another juice – usually about 500ml at a time – to fill you up. There are no limits, but it does get dull quickly.
After I stopped smoking, my weight crept up and I looked and felt awful (left). After just days on the juice fast diet, I felt amazing and the weight fell off me (right, a few months later)
Joe Cross charted his own weight loss before recruiting others to join him
I experimented by adding chilli, ginger and garlic to try to spice things up. I mixed exotic veg and fruit (top tip: don’t) and tried to vary my schedule. But no matter how bored I was, I couldn’t deny the effect. I felt amazing. The weight was falling off me. I was alive again and it had knocked years off me. My eyes sparkled.
By the third week though, I was dreaming, almost hallucinating, about protein. I craved steak, fish, chicken – even just handful of nuts! But I had a blood test lined up and I didn’t want to jeopardise the results. At my unhealthy worst, my cholesterol had been a terrifying 9.6. Statins had brought that back down to a healthier 5.2 just before the fast.
I wanted to see how it was affected by all that juice though. I got my bloods checked and then grabbed a prawn Vietnamese roll to ease myself back onto solid food. The next day, the doc phoned with my results – my cholesterol was now an incredible 2.1. She was gobsmacked.
The diet completely transformed my life. I gave up Pepsi Max, cut down my coffee and more importantly, slashed my portion sizes, and I ate and slept regularly. It wasn’t just a diet, it was a complete reset of my life, and an injection of vitamins, minerals and all sorts of good things.
It was also a living hell by the end that I have never since been able to face repeating – but jeez, it worked. I lost almost 10kg in that three weeks alone. In its wake, I went on a 5:2 eating/fasting diet for the next year, and shed about 25kg in total, until I was down to an ultra-skinny 61kg.
Joe Cross advocated concentrating nutrients from fruit and veg into a drink without roughage
Like the liquid diet transformed Shane Warne from a baked bean-eating, bleach-blond, Aussie larrikin into a sleek, debonair, manicured gentleman, I too was rejuvenated, trim and healthy.
In the years that followed, I stayed fit, spent six hours a week in the gym, cycling 20km in 40 minutes on the exercise bike and building up real muscles and cardiovascular fitness.
Thankfully, that peak level of fitness came in handy when I rocked up in the ambulance at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital in 2020. They took a lot of blood tests, gave me my first PCR test, confirmed my ECG was erratic and then eventually put me in a side room while they waited for the results.
It was some time later before they remembered about me. I was not in distress – just a bit of discomfort, about 2/10 on a pain scale – so there was no sense of urgency.
But I could overhear the registrar making the call to the lab about my latest blood tests.
‘Hi, do you have the troponin results for Kevin Airs please?’ he asked.
I lost around 25kg, my weight was down to 61kg and my old clothes were now too big for me
Troponin is a marker hormone released by damaged heart tissue. It’s normally less than 2, and if it’s over 100, employment insurance will generally accept that you’ve had a heart attack and pay out.
The registrar repeated the result incredulously… ‘Two THOUSAND four hundred and sixty?’ he said. That was A Lot.
At that point, things happened very quickly. A team of doctors and nurses appeared from nowhere and surrounded me. One told me: ‘You’ve had a heart attack, we’re taking you to surgery now…’
Seconds later I was naked on a table in an operating theatre surrounded by half a dozen people with another dozen watching from the observation room. There is no time for dignity when you’re fighting for your life and they sliced open my groin, sending blood spurting, to push a probe into the arteries around my heart.
It revealed three clots, and work began to remove them and insert stents – all completely painlessly despite me being conscious the whole time. It took a while – and there was a fair bit of frustrated swearing from the surgeon as he tried to grab the clots by remote control – but finally he succeeded.
He gruffly showed me one of the clots which seemed terrifyingly huge. ‘That seems big,’ I mentioned to a nurse. ‘It is,’ she said. ‘Very big. You’re very lucky…’
To be honest, I cruised through the actual heart attack. Medics told me my time in the gym was probably why I’d survived, which was nice, but I was annoyed it hadn’t actually STOPPED the heart attack from happening.
I made a full recovery thanks to the medics – but if I had delayed calling for help, I could have died like Shane Warne
In hindsight, it was years of excess, being Scottish, and stress from Covid – which was causing multiple critical problems for my work – that pushed my ticker into shutdown. But thankfully, albeit through confusion about having Covid, I was alert enough to actually call an ambulance and let the medics save my life.
Had it been any circumstances other than Covid though, I am certain I would have dismissed it as a cold or heartburn and ignored it. Unless you’re crippled by pain, you just downplay it. And once you are crippled by pain, it’s probably too late.
Since then, I’ve fully recovered – within three months, your heart is actually stronger with stents – and I’ve only been back to hospital for the broken ribs and arm I suffered from my new addiction to falling off my road bike.
But all too easily, I could have beaten the Spin King into the grave – and there lies Warnie’s legacy for every middle-aged bloke: All chest pains are bad.
Get them checked. No matter where you are or what’s going on – whether it’s a holiday in a luxury villa in Thailand or a night in front of Netflix – get it checked… because we won’t all get a state funeral.
Shane Warne and Elizabeth Hurley at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Grey Goose Winter Ball in London in 2012
Is this what REALLY caused Shane Warne’s death? Aussie legend’s final year offers a chilling clue into his sudden heart attack in Thailand
Shane Warne’s hectic schedule as well as two bouts of Covid and a smoking habit may offer an insight into his shocking and sudden death.
The world has been in mourning since Warne died of a heart attack while holidaying in Koh Samui last Friday, aged 52.
The legspinner was taking a well deserved three-month break following commentating commitments both in the UK and Australia.
Warne had also just completed a 14-day liquid only diet, described by his manager James Erskine as ‘extreme’ and ‘ridiculous’.
Shane Warne’s hectic schedule as well as two bouts of Covid and a smoking habit may offer an insight into his shocking and sudden death
Warne had also suffered a bad dose of Covid in London during August last year.
So bad was his experience with the virus that he used a ventilator to help him recover.
He later told the Herald Sun he caught Covid again a few months later, but said the second time was like a ‘little flu’.
‘The second time was just a bit of a sniffle, and the first time I was quite bad. Now I’m double vaxxed, had it twice, and think I’ll be ok for a while,’ he said earlier.
A recent study by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found that a previous Covid diagnosis can increase the risk of heart problems for up to a year after testing positive, even in those with no pre-existing conditions.
The legspinner died of a heart attack while holidaying in Koh Samui, leaving family, friends and cricket fans all over the world devastated
‘We wanted to build upon our past research on Covid’s long-term effects by taking a closer look at what’s happening in people’s hearts,’ senior author Ziyad Al-Aly said.
‘What we’re seeing isn’t good. Covid-19 can lead to serious cardiovascular complications and death.
‘The heart does not regenerate or easily mend after heart damage. These are diseases that will affect people for a lifetime.’
The study found that people who contracted Covid were 72 per cent more likely to suffer from coronary artery disease, 63 per cent more likely to have a heart attack and 52 per cent more likely to experience a stroke, the study said.
Very few of the participants in the study were vaccinated as it was done when the vaccine was not widely available.
A cardiothoracic surgeon, KM Mandana, told The Times of India, smoking, obesity and diabetes can all lead to heart problems.
Warne’s manager denied perceptions the cricket great was a heavy drinker
‘Now there’s a new one – Covid,’ he said.
‘A Covid survivor is likely to have suffered clots in arteries, which may trigger a heart attack months after recovery. In most cases, especially those aged between 30 and 60, there’s no symptom.’
Warne was also a habitual smoker who once famously chose to bring six packs of cigarettes to a training camp over three pairs of undies and socks ahead of the 2006 Ashes.
Coaching staff said he could take his smokes but had to remove one piece of clothing for each pack.
A year before his death, the social butterfly Warne hosted a dozen of his mates at his Brighton home, with a fully stocked bar, waitresses and a private chef.
Warne hosted regular poker nights with his mates that often lasted into early the next morning
It was there when he also hosted regular ‘legendary’ poker nights with his mates that often lasted into the early hours of the morning.
Warne was also known to be a lover of junk food, while experts have said a juice cleanse similar to the one he did can increase the risk of heart attacks for those with cardiac issues.
The cricket great has previously mentioned he had tried ‘traditional Chinese medicine’ for his weight loss and his family said he would regularly go on ’30-day fasting tea diets’ as he battled his weight over his career.
Warne’s long-time manager Erskine revealed that Warne had taken to drastic measures to trim down, including liquid-only diets
Warne is seen with his son Jackson. His family and friends are expected to hold a private ceremony to honour his life as early as next week
The Heart Foundation’s chief medical advisor Professor Garry Jennings said that there was a risk the heart could be put under extra strain by very low calorie diets under some conditions.
‘Mostly, these risks are on top of an underlying heart problem, they don’t come out of the blue. I doubt they could cause a heart problem just by themselves,’ Professor Jennings told The Sydney Morning Herald.
‘Basically, if your metabolism, your handling of fluids, salt and other electrolytes gets completely out of whack, if you have a small heart attack, you’re more likely for that to turn into something serious with a rhythm disorder.’
Warne’s long-time manager Erskine revealed that Warne had taken to drastic measures to trim down, including liquid-only diets.
‘It was a bit all or nothing. It was either white buns with butter and lasagne stuffed in the middle, or he would be having black and green juices,’ he said.
He also said that despite some perceptions, Warne wasn’t a heavy drinker.
‘He didn’t drink much. Everyone thinks he’s a big boozer but he’s not a big boozer at all. I sent him a crate of wine, 10 years later it’s still there. He doesn’t drink, never took drugs, ever,’ he said.
Cricket Australia doctor, Dr. Peter Brukner, said it was likely Warne’s lifestyle may have contributed to possible heart problems.
‘Warney, if he had heart disease, which sounds like he did, you know, that didn’t happen overnight in Thailand. It’s been happening for 20, 30 years from smoking, poor diet, etc, etc,’ he told Triple M Breakfast with Basil and Xav on Wednesday.
Despite the contributory lifestyle factors that may have led to Warne’s fatal heart attack, Dr Brukner was still shocked by his death
‘Just unbelievable,’ Brukner began when asked about the cricketer’s passing. ‘None of us can really believe it, can we? He was a larger than life character.’
A state funeral for the sporting icon will be held on March 30 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with as many fans as possible allowed to attend.
‘There will be no limits on crowds and that sort of stuff,’ Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters.
‘It will be a very big event, it will be a celebration of his life as it should be.’
Warne’s close friends and family are expected to hold a private ceremony to farewell the sporting legend as early as next week.
A state funeral for the sporting icon will be held on March 30 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with as many fans as possible allowed to attend