Stroke survivor Jay says: “You can break salt habit”

Jay Johnson’s love for take-aways contributed to his high blood pressure, which caused two devastating strokes.

Now he Seasons With Sense, using herbs and spices instead of salt and is looking forward to a healthier future.

Jay, 49, from Blairhall in Fife, had a massive haemorrhagic stroke – a bleed on the brain – in 2018, followed by a second stroke, a few months later. The doctors discovered Jay had high blood pressure – also known as hypertension – which he wasn’t aware of at the time.

They said it was likely that his high blood pressure caused his stroke. This came as a huge shock to Jay, as he felt perfectly well living with it yet as he now knows, hypertension is the single biggest cause of stroke.

He was affected physically and had to learn to walk again. And his grit continued with a plan to undertake a 5K run. Shortly after the run, Jay had a second stroke.

When the real impact of the stroke hit him, his mental health began to decline, and he felt suicidal.

Jay puts his strokes down to an unhealthy lifestyle. “Looking back, I had too much salt in my diet,” he said. “I ordered about three takeaways a week – often fish and chips, loaded with salt. In fact, I had salt with nearly everything! Fruit and vegetables didn’t much feature in my diet, and I probably drank too much.

After the shock of his stroke, Jay decided to change his lifestyle. He started to exercise more, introduced fruit and vegetables into his diet and reduced his salt intake.

He said: “Now, when I’m having chips, I put them in a sandwich bag prior to cooking and pour in some dried herbs or spices to season them and give the bag a good shake.

“Having a stroke is the most devastating thing that can happen to anyone. If you know the cause, do something about it. Eating salt became a behaviour for me, which although sounds like a habit hard to break, but as soon as I made the decision to do so, it wasn’t as hard as I expected. I reduced my salt intake, and introduced alternatives, which made it a lot easier.

I am backing Season with Sense’s ‘Stick to 6 Challenge’, because it’s so important for people to be aware that too much salt in your diet can have devastating consequences on your health.

Season with Sense’s ‘Stick to 6 Challenge’ encourages people to track their daily salt intake, in an effort not to exceed the recommended maximum 6g per day. With the average person consuming 8.4g of salt per day, it’s important for us to cut down where needed.”

Jay is now doing well. He got married last summer, is exercising regularly and continues to eat healthy foods.

In the UK, 100,000 people have strokes each year. Lowering your blood pressure, even by a small amount, can help you to stay healthy and one way to do this, is to reduce your sodium intake.

Most sodium is in the salt we eat and that’s why at the Stroke Association we’re proud to support the Season With Sense campaign and the ‘Stick to 6 Challenge’.