Olympic silver medalist Black was told the devastating news about his heart condition at the tender age of 11. Doctors told him he would probably never be able to take part in competitive sports. Determined not to let this define him, Black exercised daily and led a healthy lifestyle. At Black’s peak, he won a host of sporting accolades including two silver medals at the Olympics.
Congenital heart disease is a general term for a range of birth defects that affect the normal way the heart works.
Congenital heart disease is one of the most common types of birth defect, affecting up to eight in every 1,000 babies born in the UK.
The NHS said: “Congenital heart disease has no obvious cause however, some things are known to increase the risk of the condition.
“These include the mother having certain infections, the mother taking certain types of medicine during pregnancy, the mother smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy, the mother having poorly controlled diabetes, or other chromosome defects, where genes may be altered from normal and can be inherited.
Speaking to Heart Matters, Black said: “As I have got older I am more aware of my heart condition. I have dependants and children and I am very aware.
“I can’t push myself like I used to. People think I’m pumping it out, I’m hitting it, but it’s not like that anymore. I’ll never do a marathon again. I don’t have a goal. I’m not going to put my heart under strain.”
Giving tips on keeping active despite the condition, Black said: “I am a great believer in small amounts of regular exercise.
“My wife and I try do a half an hour jog every day. The single most important thing to do is keep moving. I am always moving around and I probably have a healthier diet than I used to. I have to respect my heart condition. Especially now I’ve hit 50.”
Congenital heart disease has a number of symptoms in babies including a rapid heart beat, rapid breathing, swelling of the legs, extreme tiredness, and a blue tinge to the skin.
The NHS added: “Treatment for congenital heart disease usually depends on the defect you or your child has.
Mild defects, such as holes in the heart, often don’t need to be treated, as they may improve on their own and may not cause any further problems.”
“I have a story that I want to share if it can help people. My heart condition is not a secret, but I’ve not made a big deal out of it.
“All I can hope is, if anyone get’s a diagnosis it’s not an end. Be intelligent. Get support. It didn’t stop me pursuing my dream,” added Black.
Black is a research ambassador with Heart Matters and wants to bring more attention to this heart condition.