A BUSINESSMAN is swapping the books for bikes as he is soon to set off on a 223-mile ride for charity.

Stuart Baldwin, the director of low vision products business Associated Optical, is taking on the challenge riding coast to coast across Costa Rica in the Big Heart Bike Ride.

The 44-year-old, from Bicester, is just days away from heading off for the mammoth feat where he will be riding from November 23, until December 2.

But Mr Baldwin won't be doing it alone as he heads off with two members of his work team Nick Hamlet and Ian Hughes.

Mr Baldwin, initially signed up to get fit but also pay tribute to a colleague's friend who unexpectedly passed away.

He said: "I signed up for the Big Heart Bike Ride India in 2014, but due to the birth of my daughter the trip was cancelled.

"My original motivation to complete the challenge never really left me, so I needed little persuasion to sign up to Cycle Costa Rica when it appeared in my Facebook feed.

"I chose to raise funds for Heart UK because one of our team members, Nick Hamlett had lost a close friend, Drew Hirst in 2015 at the age of 23.

"Drew suffered a fatal heart attack. Nick told me about how much Heart UK had supported the family and I wanted to do my bit for this wonderful charity."

Doctors initially thought Mr Hirst might have had familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), which is an inherited form of high cholesterol - but it was not possible to confirm this.

Those who have FH, known as a 'silent killer' have extremely high levels of cholesterol, in some cases four times higher than average, and this affects at least one in 250 people.

It increases the risk of developing heart and other circulatory diseases and as such Heart UK is campaigning for a national screening programme to help reduce the risk of fatal heart attacks and strokes.

Mr Baldwin added: "As we are all self-funding, the 2018 bonus plan has been structured to finance the trip to Costa Rica. The guys have worked hard this year to ensure their place on the challenge. This process has been extremely positive for all of us, and we are all very keen to start the challenge."

He added that he is lucky to have such a committed team helping to make training for the trip enjoyable.

Heart UK chief executive officer Jules Payne said: "Heart UK is very grateful to all of Drew’s friends and family who have supported us and helped us to raise not only funds, but awareness of FH.

"The diagnosis of FH is very low, and most people who have FH don’t know it. Heart UK will continue to call for a national screening programme to help identify people with FH and ensure they receive treatment.

To donate justgiving.com/fundraising/associatedoptical