"My diet and lack of exercise contributed greatly to my stroke”

Andy Jones liked to eat a lot of salt with his food. Whatever he ate, whether it was a Chinese takeaway or fish and chips, Andy would always add plenty of seasoning.

Although he didn’t consider himself unhealthy, Andy didn’t exercise and was overweight, which earned him the nickname Chunky.

The excessive salt Andy was adding to his food had raised his blood pressure to dangerous levels. High blood pressure caused his arteries to fur up and put extra strain on his heart. 

Most people with high blood pressure don’t have any symptoms, but the condition sharply increases the risk of having a stroke.

In December 2003, Andy, who ran a courier business in Warwick, collapsed at someone’s doorstep during a delivery.

“I had a feeling like vertigo and I felt dizzy,” he says. “I knocked on the door and I told the person who answered that I was feeling unwell. I collapsed moments later.”

He had lost the use of his right side and his speech was slurred. Hospital tests confirmed he had had a stroke caused by a blood clot.

Cholesterol control

Andy was in hospital for a week, where he was given physiotherapy and speech therapy. He took medication to control his blood pressure and cholesterol.

“I was home for Christmas Eve,” he says. “I was walking again by then, but it took me three months to regain the use of my hand and arm.

“My speech and my ability to swallow came back within 24 hours. However, even now I struggle with tying shoelaces and using keys.”

He says his family were crucial in his recovery. “They helped with my determination to get better,” he says. “My mother walked with me every day.”

Having a stroke at 40 was a big shock for Andy. “I thought strokes didn’t happen to people my age,” he says.

In fact, out of the 150,000 people who have a stroke in the UK each year, 31,000 are under 60.

“It took me a long time to come to terms with my stroke,” Andy says. “I still suffer bouts of anxiety and depression.”

Returning to work

Andy says the stroke has left few traces, but its less obvious effects include moments of extreme tiredness.

“It’s a hidden disability that’s hard to explain,” he says. “It’s a fatigue I’ve never experienced before and it’s quite debilitating.”

He lost his business soon after the stroke, but was keen to get back to work as soon as possible, to rebuild his self-esteem. After working as a driver in the voluntary sector, Andy now works part-time in a betting shop.

Cutting out salt

He is now a lot more careful about what he eats, has cut down on takeaways and greatly reduced the amount of salt in his diet.

“I don’t add salt to my food,” he says. “If I feel like a snack, I’ll have fruit.”

He says he eats his meals more slowly, which leaves him more satisfied. “I always aim to be the last to finish,” he says. “It means I eat less but feel fuller.”

Andy believes his excessive consumption of salt helped lead to his stroke. “My diet and lack of exercise contributed greatly to my stroke,” he says.

“I wish I had known I had high blood pressure. I would have done something about it and would probably have prevented the stroke.”

Some good has come out of Andy’s experience: he may have saved his younger brother from a stroke.

“After my stroke, he went to have his blood pressure checked and found it was too high. Now he’s addressing that.”

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