A dad who suffered two strokes in three months after years of eating too many fish suppers has warned of the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle.
Jay Johnson was just 44 when he had his first stroke and admitted that until then he had thought little about his poor diet.
To mark Stroke Prevention Day today, Jay is telling his story after being left blind and brain damaged in the hope Scots will improve their diet and lifestyle to avoid the killer condition.
Jay’s first stroke was caused by high blood pressure after years of an unhealthy lifestyle and diet.
He said: “When I was 21, I only weighed seven stone, so I thought I could eat anything I wanted. I loved fish suppers.
“If I could talk to my 18-year-old self, I would tell myself to wise up. Before my stroke I didn’t have a clue an unhealthy lifestyle could cause a stroke.
“I never want to run the risk of having another stroke. That is why I’ve made lifestyle changes and it’s making me feel like a happier, better person.”
His poor lifestyle took hold at 19, after the murder of his dad Marvyn, 38, a part-time soldier who was shot dead by the IRA in Belfast.
His bad diet worsened as he nursed his previous fiancee, Julie Cooke, through her battle with cancer.
When she died, a month before their wedding, he was so brokenhearted his poor relationship with food continued.
Just five months after Julie’s death, he suffered his first stroke while chatting to a friend on FaceTime.
He said: “My speech was really slurred, as if I was drunk, and my friend told me to go to bed. I stood to go to bed, my left leg buckled and I fell.
“I tried to use my left arm to push myself up but there was no power in it. I shuffled myself off to bed using my right arm and leg to crawl along the floor. It was frightening.”
He made a partial recovery but suffered a second stroke 11 weeks later, a fortnight after he had take part in a 5k run – against doctor’s advice.
This time it was more serious, leaving him blind and with brain damage which causes him to be irritable and overly emotional.
Jay, now 48, who lives near Dunfermline, Fife, has slowly got his life back on track after the strokes in 2018.
He has taken up disabled darts and will walk down the aisle in August to marry fiancee Sarah Thomson.
But he admitted his fast food addiction was a recipe for disaster.
But having swapped takeaways for healthy eating, and with his guide dog Bailey by his side, he now has renewed confidence.
And he is now embarking on an international sports career, playing darts and is working towards a UK Paralympic team place playing goalball – a team sport designed specifically for athletes with a vision impairment.
John Watson, Associate Director Scotland at the Stroke Association said: “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.
“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.”
As a first step, the Stroke Association wants people to make one small change to reduce their risk of stroke.
These can include even small changes like changing your diet to include less salt, exercising more, eating more fruit and vegetables or drinking less alcohol which could make a real difference.
Don’t miss the latest news from around Scotland and beyond – Sign up to our daily newsletter here .