Me and my health: musician Lee Hedley on his lifestyle
The 50-year-old blues singer and harmonica player from Newtownards is playing the Belfast City Blues Festival this weekend with his group, The Lee Hedley Band. He is married to March (52), is father to Amy-Lee (22) and Emma (19) and has a 10-year-old Yorkie called Toffi.
Q: Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?
A: Nothing of the conventional type. I think we all have a limited number of steps in this life and, once they're used up, it's all downhill from there. Slow and steady wins the race every time! So, apart from two hours a night on stage bouncing about like a raving lunatic, I don't really do regular exercise.
Q: What is the worst illness you've had?
A: I sadly suffer from ankylosing spondylitis, which was diagnosed at 19. I've been fighting it ever since, but it's getting harder to mask the symptoms. It's a very severe autoimmune disease that keeps me in a constant state of chronic pain, stiffness and heavy fatigue.
I should have been in a wheelchair by the time I was 40-ish but I am receiving very expensive biologic, anti-tumour necrosis factor injections which have bought me more time. I don't ever talk about it in public unless someone asks as everyone has their own issues and no one needs to hear about mine. Other musicians, like Mick Mars from Motley Crue and Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds, also suffer the same fate of ankylosing spondylitis but they don't let their music career suffer either. You can't lie down and let it win - you need to keep pushing and kicking.
I also have bipolar disorder and, at times, things can get very, well, 'interesting'. It is a real curse to live with at times - however, on the plus side, it's without a doubt why I am so creative and driven in my music, which I have used to turn the bad press that my mental health condition usually gets into something very positive with my music. I have a very tight circle of friends that basically consists of my immediate family these days, plus a couple of non-family members who I trust. I'm also very thankful to those who follow me year in, year out around the gig scene and show their love for my shows. This keeps me on the straight and narrow and I hope it continues for many years to come.
Q: How healthy is your diet?
A: I eat anything really - usually really healthy food as I need to keep in half-decent shape to aid my physical and mental condition. I have the odd Chinese takeaway or pizza now and again for a treat but usually it's salmon, chicken, veg, pasta and plenty of water.
Q: Any bad habits?
A: The worst one is probably that I haven't got the ability to say no. It used to be worse but I have had to learn the hard way. I'm forever known for taking on too much, but I can't see anyone that needs help being stuck, usually to my own detriment. I am slowly getting used to the necessity of saying no to requests lately, albeit it is still difficult.
Q: Do you drink and smoke/if so how much?
A: I drink, but not excessively. About 10 to 15 units a week and sometimes none. Then there's the odd blow out! Smoking is a no-no - I hate the stuff.
Q: Do you take any supplements?
A: Not at all, I think if I drink loads of water and eat healthily it should be plenty. Most of that stuff is rubbish anyway and the body gets rid of it, unless it's needed for a medical reason.
Q: How do you take time out?
A: I am really lucky to live in a beautiful home that has a balcony overlooking the sea. Nothing repairs the head and body better than a few rays of sunshine on the back decking. Anyone who's visited our home will know what I'm referring to. It's a small paradise. We invested in a motorhome last year - it's the best thing we've ever bought. It really chills us out after a hectic schedule.
Q: How well do you sleep?
A: Not very well. I get about four hours here and two hours there, in between taking my meds midway through the night.
Q: Do you worry about getting old?
A: Not at all. I'll embrace it when it happens. I'm living for the 'now'. I do worry about my parents though, which is only natural.
Q: What is your go-to product that keeps you feeling healthy?
A: I don't think there is such a product in my life.
Lee Hedley and his band will play a number of gigs at the Belfast City Blues Festival, presented by American Holidays and Brand USA. The festival runs from June 28-30. For more information, festival listings and tickets, visit www.belfastcityblues.com