Strokes are no respecter of age, says survivor

The survivor - 34-year-old Geoff Hamilton of Otumoetai suffered a stroke and it changed his life.

At just 34-years-old, Geoff Hamilton suffered a stroke. It was a shock to the man.

“You’re never too young to have a stroke,” says the Tauranga man, after suffering one earlier this year. “I was shocked it had happened to me at such a young age.”

It was also an immediate life changer.

“A lot of it’s about changing my eating habits, my diet, drinking, watching my cholesterol, exercise that sort of thing. I’m walking the dog heaps more. I used to have a beer fridge, which has now gone.”

Geoff had just returned from a two-week road trip with his brother Peter when he suffered a stroke at his Otumoetai home.

“I’d gone to the fridge and the next thing I knew I was on the floor wondering what was happening and why I couldn’t get up.” He had lost all feeling down his right side and the vision in his right eye.

Eventually he got some feeling back, got himself off the floor and upstairs, thinking he would go to bed and sleep it off.

“I told my brother what had happened. I was speaking gibberish and random stuff. He’s a nurse and he kicked into action. He checked me for head injuries, got an ambulance, got me to A&E and they told me I’d had a stroke. I was lucky he was there.”

Geoff had been taken to Tauranga Hospital and woke in the ward the next day to a new reality.

“It definitely came as a big shock, to my friends and family as well as me. I’ve since found out it can affect you at any age it’s just more common in older people.”

The contract supervisor has had to make some lifestyle changes.

“I’ve always eaten quite healthily but it’s more about portion size. So rather than finishing something for the sake of it, I’ll put food back in the fridge. I’ve got a food diary, where I track what I eat and meal plan every week, so I’m not walking around the supermarket putting things in the basket I shouldn’t be.”

And it’s working.

“I’ve nearly lost 10kgs. I’m at 93kgs now and want to get down to 80kgs by Christmas. You don’t necessarily have to make drastic changes to make a difference. I think mine have all been quite minor, small steps towards doing the right thing. It’s about taking responsibility for yourself and your health.”

Geoff’s advice is to be honest with yourself about your health. “There were a couple of red flags and if I’d got it looked into then I could’ve avoided this situation. Don’t ignore your health. If you have something that’s niggling away at you, listen to your body, get it checked out, because a stroke can happen to anyone at any age.”

The Stroke Foundation of New Zealand’s Midland General Manager Cee Kay congratulated Geoff on his health efforts post-stroke. 

“The work Geoff has already done, and is continuing to do, to make healthier lifestyle choices is simply amazing. This is helping both his recovery and his long term health. Awesome work Geoff.”

Three quarters of strokes are preventable and the Stroke Foundation provides vital awareness campaigns and health promotion programmes, working closely alongside medical professionals.

The number one modifiable risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure and one in five New Zealanders have high blood pressure.

“A staggering one third are not even aware of this,” says Cee. “High blood pressure can however be managed and controlled. Through regular blood pressure checks and making healthy lifestyle choices, such as reducing your salt intake, taking medication and eating a healthy diet, the chances of stroke can be drastically reduced.”

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