Michael Palin says heart scare reminded him body isn't indestructible

Sir Michael Palin, 77, says his heart scare reminded him that his body ‘isn’t indestructible’ and he has now stopped running after 40 years

  • The Monty Python icon, 77, revealed he has stopped running after 40 years and instead replaced it with long ‘phone-free’ walks in Hampstead Heath, London 
  • Palin underwent a heart operation in September 2019 to fix a ‘leaky mitral valve’ after he was advised by doctors to have it repaired
  • The travel documentary maker has said that the recent scare has reminded him that his body ‘isn’t indestructible’
  • The mitral valve is a small flap in the heart that stops blood flowing the wrong way. If damaged, it can affect how blood flows around the body 
  • Father-of-three Palin lives with his wife Helen in north London and he also spoke about his heart operation on Wednesday’s episode of Lorraine 

Michael Palin has said that his recent heart scare has reminded him that his body ‘isn’t indestructible’.

The Monty Python icon, 77, has also revealed that he has stopped running after 40 years and instead replaced it with long walks.

Palin underwent a heart operation in September last year to fix a ‘leaky mitral valve’ after he was advised by doctors to have it repaired. 

Heart scare: Michael Palin has said that his recent heart scare has reminded him that his body ‘isn’t indestructible’ (pictured in 2019) 

Reflecting on the past few months, the actor penned on his blog earlier this month: ‘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. 

‘Over the last year I discovered a rather enjoyable equilibrium, a balance between work and relaxation that for the first time in my life favoured the latter.’

He added: ‘After forty years I’ve given up running, and taken to long walks instead. Running was a a fierce and competitive fight with myself, justified largely by how good I felt afterwards. Walking is something to enjoy at the time.’

Palin noted that he now enjoys long ‘phone-free’ walks in Hampstead Heath, London, and he takes time to listen to his surroundings other than the ‘thump of his own heart’ and ‘slip-slap of trainers’. 

Lifestyle overhaul: The Monty Python icon, 77, has also revealed that he has stopped running after 40 years and instead replaced it with long walks (pictured in 1992) 

The actor also reflected on his heart operation on Wednesday’s episode of Lorraine where he told presenter Lorraine Kelly he has had a ‘a lot of thinking time’.   

He said: ‘I’ve had a lot of thinking time. Because I had a heart operation about a year ago. After six months, I felt absolutely fine… and I feel terrific and then Covid started. 

‘So, I’ve had about a year in all of sort of being confined to home and seeing fewer people and not being able to contact people in quite the same way, or feeling the same human contact. 

‘And it does make you think, it makes you think a lot the about how best to spend your life and what we all do to our planet… it for a while gave me a still quiet moment.’ 

Repaired: Palin underwent a heart operation in September last year to fix a ‘leaky mitral valve’ after he was advised by doctors to have it repaired 

The actor revealed in 2019 that he was undergoing a heart operation to fix a ‘leaky mitral valve’ after he was advised by doctors to have it repaired. 

The mitral valve is a small flap in the heart that stops blood flowing the wrong way. If damaged, it can affect how blood flows around the body. 

A ‘leaky’ mitral valve is the nickname for a condition called mitral regurgitation, when it doesn’t close tightly enough and blood goes the wrong way.

This puts a strain on the heart and often causes symptoms such as breathlessness and fatigue, Harvard Medical School states.

Reflective: Palin noted that he now enjoys long ‘phone-free’ walks in Hampstead Heath, London, and he takes time to listen to his surroundings other than the ‘thump of his own heart’ (pictured in 2019) 

Father-of-three Palin, who lives with his wife Helen in north London, wrote on his blog at the time: ‘Five years ago, a routine health check revealed a leaky mitral valve in my heart.

‘Until the beginning of this year it had not affected my general level of fitness. Recently, though, I have felt my heart having to work harder and have been advised it’s time to have the valve repaired.

‘I shall be undergoing surgery in September and should be back to normal, or rather better than normal, within three months.’ 

Thinking time: The actor also reflected on his heart operation on Wednesday’s episode of Lorraine where he told presenter Lorraine Kelly he has had a ‘a lot of thinking time’ 

WHAT IS A LEAKY MITRAL VALVE? 

The mitral valve is a small flap in the heart that stops blood flowing the wrong way. If damaged, it can affect how blood flows around the body. 

A ‘leaky’ mitral valve is the nickname for a condition called mitral regurgitation, when it doesn’t close tightly enough and blood goes the wrong way.

This puts a strain on the heart and often causes symptoms such as breathlessness and fatigue, Harvard Medical School states.

In the long-run, mitral regurgitation can lead to serious complications such as atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) and heart failure. 

It is often caused by mitral valve prolapse, when the flaps – called leaflets – bulge back into the left atrium as the heart contracts.

However, a leaky mitral valve also can happen with age, through general ‘wear and tear’ of the valve, the NHS says.

Other causes include cardiomyopathy (stiff heart chamber muscles), an infection of the inner lining of the heart, or congenital heart disease.  

Statistics suggest the NHS undertakes around 2,200 mitral valve repair operations each year.

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