Flava FM host Sela Alo didn't know what was happening when he started "spinning out" on air.

The father-of-three couldn't talk, broke out in a cold sweat and turned the microphone off.

He was having a stroke, which is not uncommon for sufferers of heart disease.

Mr Alo was born with atrial fibrillation, a type of heart rhythm disorder. He later developed a valvular disease called mitral regurgitation.

Advertisement

In January 2011, Mr Alo, then 38, underwent open heart surgery after being given the choice: surgery or five years to live.

"The doctors were pretty straight up with me," he said. "They said that by going into my heart there's an element of risk and there's a chance I could die.

"But if I didn't have the operation, I'd be dead within five years."

The surgery was successful but two years later he had the stroke on air.

"I know what it means to live and breathe every moment as if it were your last."

Now, Mr Alo is focused on having a healthy lifestyle. "As a dad, I just want to be able to run and play with my children for as long as I can."

He wants other New Zealanders to look after their heart through healthy lifestyle choices as well.

He will be distributing donation boxes at Auckland businesses next Friday as a part of the Heart Foundation's month-long annual appeal.

Throughout February, thousands of volunteers will also be hitting the streets nationwide for the appeal.

Heart Foundation medical director Gerry Devlin said the foundation's work had never been more important.

"While we have seen a dramatic reduction in death from heart disease over the last 40 years, more than one New Zealander still dies from heart disease every 90 minutes," he said.

"We also have more New Zealanders living with heart disease than ever before who rightly have an expectation to live a productive life."

Heart disease

• New Zealand's biggest killer, responsible for more than 6000 deaths every year

• 169,000 Kiwis currently live with heart disease

• Kiwi women more than four times more likely to die from a heart disease than breast cancer

Source: the Heart Foundation

Heart Foundation appeal

Go to www.heartfoundation.org.nz/donate, call the Foundation on 0800 830 100, visit a BNZ branch or donate to a street fundraiser.

• Or donate at a Heart Month event:

Zumba fundraiser

February 14, 4pm-5.30pm

Otara Pool & Leisure Centre, Newbury St, Otara

Silo Cinema

February 14, 9pm

Silo Park, Wynyard Quarter, corner of Beaumont & Jellicoe sts

Hibiscus Hot Rodders display
February 14, 9.30am-11.30am

Orewa Surf Club, Hibiscus Coast Highway, Orewa

Franklin A&P Show

February 20-21

Pukekohe Showgrounds, Station Rd, Pukekohe

Blood pressure testing at Heart Foundation stand

February 20 and 21, 9am-4pm