This interview with Graeme Souness was first published in The Herald.

"I remember sitting on the couch six months later with tears running down my face," says Graeme Souness recalling the psychological fall-out from major surgery at 38 for a disease most people still associate with later life.

Then, well into his managerial years with Rangers and then Liverpool he was still "training hard" he says, playing games in the morning and going to the gym twice a day on top of that. His diet was good, he says, later helped by a move to Italy to take charge of Sampdoria.

However, despite doing all the right things he received the mental body blow before his 40th birthday that three of his arteries were badly damaged by a hereditary form of heart disease. Within five days of receiving the diagnosis, he was in theatre having a triple bypass.

"At the time I remember thinking, this shouldn't be happening to me. Mentally, it was really tough," he says.

"I had no symptoms as such, I had no chest pains. I was 38 years old, I was still training to a high level. I felt good but there was still something going on inside me," he says on the "chemical imbalance" from birth which would have put him at risk of having too much bad cholesterol in his arteries.

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Two of his paternal uncles had died in their thirties of heart disease so he was aware it was something he needed to keep on track of but he thought it would be much further down the line and his career on the pitch would stand him in good stead.

His only real symptoms were feeling his heart racing at times and bouts of insomnia but both him and doctors put it down to the pressures of football management.

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"I remember being here (Ibrox) and when the players would go out, say at half past two, I would then come back in and the doctor would put the blood pressure monitor on me. 

"He would say don't worry about that, that's because of the game."

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He had an ECG (electrocardiogram) and a treadmill test and was told there was "nothing dramatic to report" but doctors said if he was still concerned he could opt for an angiogram, a type of X-ray where they examine the blood vessels. 

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"The guy came back and said,' The bad news is you have three arteries that are badly damaged,'" he recalls.

"This is the scary part for anyone who reads this. I was extremely fit.

"When I was managing Liverpool I was playing games in the morning and then I'd have lunch, then I'd go to the gym in the afternoon, then I'd go home and sleep for a couple of hours, then I'd go to the gym again in the evening."

He says his recovery was hampered by him doing too much too soon which resulted in him collapsing ten days later in hospital and developing an infection which involved him having to be opened up again.

"I would say it took me a good year, psychologically and physically to get over it," he reflects."Mentally, no one prepared me.

"I'm happy for you to write this down but I remember sitting six months down later with tears running down my cheeks," he says.

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He wasn't offered counselling and is not sure he would have taken it up ("it's a generational thing") but acknowledges that it might have helped.

Ten years after his first surgery he had a stent fitted after another of his arteries had become blocked. Then in November 2015, he was rushed to hospital after suffering a near-death heart attack at home.

More recently the 70-year-old developed Atrial Fibrillation, where the heart develops an irregular and fast rhythm but is now on medication and enjoying life with his family in Poole in Dorset and keeping fit with the gym and outdoor swimming.

"I feel great," he says. "I don't do anything mad, although I did something mad in the Summer (he swam the English Channel, raising more than ÂŁ1million for Debra UK, a charity that supports those affected by epidermolysis bullosa, which causes blistering skin).

"Since then I've not appreciated life as much as I should have done. That's a fault in us as humans. Even now, I still need a reminder about how lucky I've been."

He is a long-term ambassador for the British Heart Foundation, which has signed a new, year-long charity partnership with Rangers Football Club.

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Fans will be offered match-day blood pressure checks and there is a target to encourage at least 50,000 people – the capacity of Ibrox Stadium – to learn lifesaving CPR via the BHF’s free online tool, RevivR.

Mr Souness hopes his own story will hammer home the message that heart disease can happen to anyone and encourage supporters to keep on top of cholesterol and other heart checks as well as stopping smoking.

Heart and circulatory diseases cause around 50 deaths each day, and are estimated to affect 700,000 people in Scotland.

"I want to emphasise, that if it can happen to me, at 38, it can happen to anyone," he said ahead of World Heart Day tomorrow.

"Rangers have millions of supporters worldwide so the message will get out there through this great football club."

The Ibrox legend was joined at an Ibrox photocall for the launch of the partnership by Peter Dougan and his daughter Scarlett, 11, who was born with half a heart, a result of a rare congenital condition called Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS).

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"There is no cure so eventually her heart will fail and she will require a heart transplant unless there is a medical breakthrough," he says.

The family has raised thousands for the charity to continue research into conditions like Scarlett's.

The worst aspect of the condition says the Notre Dame pupil, is not being able to get her ears pierced - there is a risk an infection could damage her heart.

Life-long Rangers fan Craig Cochrane, was also at the stadium to back the new charity tie-in.

His son Chris died six years ago at the age of 22 after being diagnosed with Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) at the age of three, a disease in which the heart muscle becomes thickened. His wife Linda and nephew also have the condition but their other son is okay so far.

"Sadly we lost Chris on July 13, 2017 due to a sudden cardiac arrest," he says.

"He was medicated for 19 years. Sadly we never got offered a pacemaker or (implanted) defibrillator. 

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"Chris loved a party. He loved to dance, he played the guitar, he had a million friends and we take a lot of comfort from that, the fact he was so loved."

The family who live near Bailleston in Glasgow's east end. have raised around ÂŁ70,000 for the BHF since his death, which has funded three defibrillators in their local area.

"It's motivation for us because we lost such a big character," says his father.

"It's a horrible condition, We know we are not unique, we know there are thousands of people suffering."

David McColgan, Head of British Heart Foundation Scotland said: “Heart and circulatory diseases are some of Scotland’s biggest killers and we hope this partnership will help us raise awareness in Scotland’s footballing community about the importance of looking after your heart health, while also enabling more people to learn lifesaving CPR skills and raise an incredible amount of money for the British Heart Foundation.”

Rangers Charity Foundation Director Connal Cochrane added: “The work of the British Heart Foundation Scotland aligns closely with the Foundation’s values in terms of health and well-being and education and we are delighted to be able to combine both these pillars in a project which will roll out life-saving skills to thousands of fans."