“I found out I had a heart murmur when I fell in love"

11 October 2013        

Category: Survival and support


This Black History Month we're highlighting the many ways heart disease affects the African Caribbean community here in the UK, and how small, simple changes to diet and lifestyle can make all the difference.

Vivinne Bramwell is a 45 year old mum from Nottingham who was born with a heart condition. She talks about how she's learning to control her weight so she can keep up with her teenage children.

Vivinne's story

As a teenager I went out with a boy in the army and, because I wanted an insight into his life, I tried to sign up for the Territorial Army. I failed the medical and that’s how I found out I had a heart murmur.

It started to bother me when at 26 I got pregnant. I started to have palpitations. You’re not aware of your heartbeat normally but at times I could feel the missed beat of my heart.

I was still in my twenties when my weight went up to about 15 stone after my second baby. I used to be slim and sporty but as I got older the weight crept on and stayed on. 

It was like a light switched on.

I started to eat more, and to move less. At my heaviest this year I was 19 stone. It’s hard looking at the cold, hard truth of that.

But I made a change. I heard about the Reggaerobics sessions run in Nottingham through a friend. It was also advertised on local radio.

I thought ‘I’m going to do this.’

It’s just been a complete and utter breath of fresh air.

We exercise to music from our culture and I just feel I am back in my twenties. I’m dancing to music I love.

We have also been learning how to improve our heart health. We have sessions from the British Heart Foundation on waist circumference, salt, how to eat better.

Going to those sessions was a wake up call. It was like a light switched on.

We share ideas. One of the volunteers made a herb seasoning that we could use in our cooking in place of salt.

Because Caribbean people, we like well flavoured food. We don’t like bland food!

I have lost 24lbs in six months. And I’m feeling pretty good.

A group of us from the Reggaerobics started a walking group on a Monday. I take along my mum, Concetta.

Mondays used to be my day off, my duvet day. But now I am up and out to my walking club.

I have teenage children and the light bulb moment for me was that I wanted to be fit and active for them. I didn’t want to be a couch potato mum.

I’ve made changes at this time of my life and it feels great.

Want help to make your food flavours pack a punch, with less salt? Find out about healthy eating and heart health on our African Caribbean pages.