Michael Palin health: Monty Python star’s heart scare – ‘my body isn’t indestructible’

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Michael Palin, 77, underwent a heart operation in September last year to fix a “leaky mitral valve”. He was advised by doctors to have his mitral valve – the small flap in the heart that stops blood flowing the wrong way – to have it repaired.

Reflecting on his health scare, the star wrote on his blog: “My heart scare reminded me that my body isn’t indestructible and if I want to keep it that way I must know when to stop working as well as when to start again.”

Problems with the mitral valve can affect how blood flows around the body.

The main problems that affect the mitral valve, according to the NHS, are mitral valve prolapse – the valve becomes too floppy, mitral regurgitation – the valve leaks and blood flows the wrong way and mitral stenosis – the valve does not open as wide as it should.

These conditions can be serious, but are often treatable.

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Mitral valve prolapse is where the mitral valve is too floppy and doesn’t close tightly.

Symptoms of the condition to watch out for include:

  • Dizziness
  • Breathlessness
  • Tiredness
  • An irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or noticeable heartbeats (palpitations)

Mitral regurgitation is where some blood flows the wrong way in the heart because the mitral valve doesn’t close properly. .

Symptoms it can cause include:

  • Dizziness
  • Breathlessness
  • Tiredness
  • Chest pain

Mitral stenosis is where the mitral valve doesn’t open as wide as it should, restricting the flow of blood through the heart.

Symptoms it can cause are:

  • Dizziness
  • Breathlessness
  • Tiredness
  • Noticeable heartbeats (palpitations)
  • Chest pain

It’s important to note if these conditions are left untreated they can lead to more serious health complications.

But some people with mitral valve problems may not experience symptoms for many years.

Mayo Clinic advises: “If you have a heart murmur your doctor may recommend you visit a cardiologist.

“If you develop any symptoms that may suggest valve disease, see your doctor.”

Following his surgery, Palin has overhauled his fitness regime.

Continuing on his blog, he wrote: “After forty years I’ve given up running, and taken to long walks instead.

“Running was a fierce and competitive fight with myself, justified largely by how good I felt afterwards.

“Walking is something to enjoy at the time.”

He now enjoys long “phone-free” walks in Hampstead Heath, London, and takes time to listen to his surroundings other than the “thump of his own heart” and “slip-slaps of trainers”.

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