Nine out of ten stroke survivors would go back in time and urge their younger self to make lifestyle changes which may have prevented their stroke, a new UK-wide survey by the Stroke Association has revealed.

Nearly nine out of ten people (87%) surveyed in Wales say they hadn’t realised that they were at risk of a stroke.

But over nine out of ten had since made lifestyle changes. This is important to the two in five people who may go on to have a second stroke1.

The charity has released the findings to mark Stroke Prevention Day, on Friday 14 January, and is urging everyone to make one small change to reduce their own risk of stroke.  Stroke is one of the leading causes of adult disability and the fourth biggest cause of death in the UK.  While some strokes are unavoidable, up to nine out of ten are linked to lifestyle and could be preventable if people are aware of the risks and able to make changes2.

Tyge Byrne, 57 from Cardiff was only 53 when he had his stroke. The stroke affected his mobility and his speech. He was told by the doctors that his unhealthy lifestyle was likely to have played a factor in him having a stroke. 

Tyge told us……

“There is no word to describe my stroke other than devastating.  I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t use my arm and my speech was completely muddled.  To top it all, my wife of 36 years left me whilst I was in hospital. If only I hadn’t had the stroke. I had immediate regrets about my lifestyle which was dangerously unhealthy. 

“I drank every night and was a smoker. My diet was poor – I’d eat takeaways regularly and my portions were too large.  I didn’t even think about the body blow that was about to hit me as a result of my lifestyle.”

Tyge Byrne

 “If only I’d known what was going to face me for the rest of my life, I’d have led a healthier life.  The thought of having another stroke is terrifying, so I made the decision to change things.

“I don’t drink or smoke anymore. I’ve gone from takeaways and microwaved meals to a balanced diet and I’m doing more exercise.  I do moderate exercise indoors and am going to start outdoor exercise, not only for my general health, but to improve the deficits of my stroke. I feel a whole lot healthier and life has improved so much for me.  I’ve gone from feeling like life wasn’t worth living, to having a real sense of purpose.”

The leading change survivors would urge their younger self to make, would be to reduce stress levels with 47% saying they would have done this. Other changes stroke survivors would have made include:

  • Monitor blood pressure – 40%
  • Eat more healthily – 30%
  • Lose a set amount of weight (for example one stone or ten kilograms) – 30%
  • Exercise more – 28%
  • Drink less alcohol – 24%
  • Monitor high cholesterol – 23%
  • Stop smoking – 20%
  • Reduce salt intake – 14%
Stay healthy and lose weight

As a first step, the Stroke Association wants us to make one small change to reduce our risk of stroke, starting on Stroke Prevention Day.

Examples include:

  • Having your blood pressure, cholesterol and pulse checked regularly
  • Stopping smoking
  • Having a number of alcohol-free days each week
  • Changing your diet to include less salt or switching to a reduced sodium alternative such as LoSalt®
  • Eating more fruit and vegetables
  • Getting up and moving regularly during the day, especially if you’re working from home
  • Joining an online exercise or activity group, or better still, taking on the charity’s Stride for Stroke challenge – one step for each of the 1.3 million stroke survivors in the UK.   
Stride For Strokes

Katie Chappelle, Associate Director Wales at the Stroke Association told us…….

“A stroke happens in the brain, the control centre for who we are and what we can do. It can happen at any time and at any age and can be devastating.

“We know not all strokes are avoidable, but as many as nine out of ten strokes could be prevented as they are linked to things you can change or manage.  Many people simply don’t realise they are at risk and that’s something that we as a charity desperately want to put right. 

“The effects of a stroke can be life-changing for you and your family, so why not do all you can to avoid one yourself?

“However, we know that it isn’t always easy, so pick something that’s manageable for you. Aim to stick with it for an initial three months and, if you can do that, you’re more likely to form a regular habit.

The good news from this research is that over nine out of ten stroke survivors have already taken steps to reduce their risk of having another stroke.”

The charity’s campaign has been launched in partnership with LoSalt®.

Excess levels of sodium in our diet (the main source being salt) is linked to high blood pressure (hypertension), a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Not enough potassium in the diet is also a contributor to hypertension

At a population level, the potential benefits of using potassium-based sodium replacers to help reduce sodium in foods outweigh the potential risks (SACN-COT report, Nov. 2017). An increased potassium intake may reduce blood pressure, decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, have beneficial effects on bone-mineral density, and mitigate the negative consequences of high sodium consumption (World Health Organisation, Potassium intake for adults and children report, 2012).

To find out more head to the LoSalt® website HERE.

Please note that if you take some types of medication that affect potassium levels, LoSalt® and other reduced sodium salt alternatives may not be suitable for you. This includes people receiving medication for diabetes, heart or kidney disorders. Check with your GP for advice.

Season With Sense

Of course, food without seasoning isn’t great, but using it sensibly and imaginatively helps with a healthier lifestyle.

Season with Sense is a public health campaign with the aim of driving down consumer sodium intake. You will find practical and expert advice, resources and low-sodium recipes to help you on your journey to make smarter salt choices on their site HERE.

Almost a third of stroke survivors said they would exercise more and an ideal way to motivate yourself is to sign up for the Stride for Stroke challenge. Find out about this and the other things you can do at HERE. Money raised will help the charity’s work supporting stroke survivors and carers across the UK.