Sadiq Khan suffered suspected ‘minor heart attack’ at COP26 in Glasgow
Sadiq Khan has revealed he may have suffered a “minor heart attack” after falling ill at a climate change conference.
The mayor said that “out of nowhere, I felt a knot in my chest – a kind of tightening” and had to be helped off the stage.
“It was COP26 in Glasgow and I seemed to be having a heart attack,” he recounts in dramatic detail in his book, Breathe, which is published this week.
Mr Khan’s aides on Sunday night told the Standard that he was “in rude health” and not on heart-related medication as a result of the health scare 18 months ago.
But they said the mayor, who developed adult-onset asthma after training for the London Marathon in 2014, has regular check-ups.
Mr Khan told the Evening Standard on Monday that “it probably was a minor heart attack”. He said: “The key thing is that I’m following the advice and looking after my physical health and mental health and eating sensibly.
“I ran 5K this morning, my doctors will be pleased to know. It’s behind me now.”
Asked if he was OK, Mr Khan said: “I’m fine. I would advise anybody reading this to look after your physical fitness and mental fitness. I’d got into the bad habit of eating late at night, often food that is not good for you, and sacrificing exercise for work.
“Get checked out. I have regular check-ups with my heart expert, and regular check-ups in relation to talking to somebody about the mental challenges I face, and I feel better for it.”
Mr Khan has been mayor since 2016 and is bidding for a record third term, which would keep him in power until 2028. The next mayoral elections are just under a year away.
It is not known what caused Mr Khan to suddenly fall ill in Glasgow on November 10, 2021. But medical experts have confirmed that the symptoms and aftermath were consistent with a minor heart attack.
Mr Khan spent about seven hours overnight in A&E at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and underwent an electrocardiogram (ECG), which checks the heart’s rhythm and electrical activity, a chest X-ray and several rounds of blood tests.
These detected “a protein called troponin, which is released into the blood after unusual heart activity”, he wrote.
Initially, the levels of troponin were “borderline” but a second test showed they had doubled. “There was a possibility that earlier that evening I’d had a minor heart attack,” he wrote.
He was released from A&E around 6am when a third test found the level of troponin had increased slightly but not by enough to merit him being admitted to a hospital ward.
Mr Khan, who was 51 at the time, recounts how he had only gone to A&E after his mayoral health advisor, Dr Tom Coffey, warned him gravely that a lot of middle aged men had gone to bed feeling ill and were dead by the morning.
Dr Coffey reminded the mayor that this had happened to Labour party leader John Smith in 1994.
Mr Khan told how he was “barely conscious” and had to be “carried off the stage” when he suddenly felt unwell while giving a speech that evening. “My shirt was drenched with sweat and I felt like I was on fire,” he recounted.
He refused requests from his aides for an ambulance to be called, and returned to his hotel room and ordered room service. But after the 10pm call from Dr Coffey, he “gave in” and went with his police protection officers to A&E.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I felt fine. I simply didn’t believe I had had a heart attack. The whole situation felt unreal. In a matter of hours, I was due to give perhaps the biggest address of my mayoralty.
“And yet here I was in Glasgow Royal Infirmary, half of my body in suit trousers and the other in a hospital gown, waiting to be told if I was going to be admitted for urgent treatment.”
The previous week at Glasgow, Mr Khan had been appointed chairman of the C40 group of world cities committed to tackling climate change. He had also met Leonardo di Caprio at a party “but failed to land a joke” about the film Titanic.
Last weekend, Mr Khan said he has suffered from PTSD after receiving numerous death threats. He has previously revealed his mental health suffered during the first lockdown and he had struggled to provide leadership.
Mr Khan does not drink and keeps himself fit, running around 12 miles a week and playing football and tennis at weekends. Sources say he has “recovered well” from the heart scare and manages his asthma.
A heart attack is regarded by the NHS as a “serious medical emergency” and happens when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot.
It is not normally fatal but can cause cardiac arrest, which is when the heart stops beating.
If Mr Khan fell ill in office, his legal powers would pass to his statutory deputy mayor, Joanne McCartney, a London Assembly member, until an election could be held.
Mr Khan’s book is part memoir but primarily explains why he has chosen to pursue policies such as the Ulez to tackle toxic air and climate change. The proceeds from the book are being donated to the Ella Roberta Foundation, established in memory of Ella Kissi-Debrah, the south London schoolgirl who was the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as a cause of death on her death certificate.