Father-of-two is using his second chance at life to inspire others to kick the habit and embrace healthier lifestyles

Photo: Muhammed Waqas Akram

Published: Thu 29 Sep 2022, 07:00

Surviving a heart attack was a life-changing experience for Pakistani expat Muhammed Waqas Akram. From smoking up to 40 cigarettes a day, the 37-year-old Abu Dhabi resident has now kicked the habit for good.

“I have lived in the UAE for seven years now,” Akram said. “I worked with the UAE Exchange until 2020. Since then I have been looking for a job, and last year during the holy month of Ramadan, I joined LLH Hospital as a volunteer for their vaccination campaign against Covid-19.

During my break time, I smoked a cigarette. After a while, I felt pain in the left side of my chest. I also started sweating.

Immediately, Akram went to the emergency room, but quickly collapsed.

“I just remembered having my ECG done and then I fell unconscious. I didn’t wake up until the next day to find that I had suffered cardiac arrest. I was gone for almost 15-20 minutes without a heartbeat and received electric shocks to revive me.

After getting a second chance, Akram regrets almost letting a cigarette cut his life short.

“Smoking was a habit for almost two decades. It started while I was in college, where I smoked up to 40 cigarettes a day. Before, I ate a lot of red meat; my office job meant a lack of physical activity and my cholesterol level was rising. After losing my job, my stress and high blood pressure also increased.

All of these factors lead to a heart attack.

For a year and a half, the father of two children has been a changed man with a healthy lifestyle.

“Now I burn calories, not cigarettes. I completely quit smoking; I feel very healthy now. Even my friends are happy that I quit. I have also reduced my consumption of red meat and am almost a vegetarian now.

I avoid fatty foods and eat more fruit. I continue to take my medication. I don’t feel like I’ve ever had an attack; I lead a normal life.

On World Heart Day, Akram urged others to quit smoking and adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle.

“Life is a precious thing. It’s up to you to make the most of it. Don’t blow it.