When Andy Robertson suffered a stroke aged 54, he quit smoking and took up walking in a bid to get his health back on track. Here, he tells VICKY ROBSON how pounding the pavements helped him to turn his life around
AFTER more than a decade spent in desk jobs and stuck in front of a computer with a 20-a-day habit, Andy Robertson’s health was on a slippery slope.
But when he suffered a stroke six years ago, his life took a dramatic turn for the worst when he found himself lacking the confidence to even leave his flat, in Byker, Newcastle.
The experience destroyed his self-esteem and it was several weeks before he finally plucked up the courage to venture beyond the safety net of his home to visit a support group for stroke victims.
“The lady who ran the support group was involved with a walking group and she encouraged me to go along and get involved too,” says Andy, originally from Fife, in Scotland.
“After I had the stroke I had to stop smoking almost straight away, which put a strain on my weight, and I was recommended to do walking to keep me fit and keep my weight down.
“Health wise, it’s very good for me. It keeps my weight at a manageable level and keeps me mentally in tune too, because after I had a stroke I was reluctant to speak to anyone.
“It was several weeks before I got my confidence back to even go out of the house. I didn’t lack confidence before it happened, but the stroke knocked it all out of me,” he adds.
The 60-year-old had just started his own business as a typesetter when he began to feel unwell in 2004. He felt some numbness down his right arm, but thought it was just a trapped nerve.
He also became severely tired and thinking he had the flu, tried to sleep it off.
It was weeks later when he eventually went to see his GP. He was immediately referred to a specialist who diagnosed him as having had a stroke.
Andy, who is currently unemployed, said: “Probably in retrospect there were warning signs, but I didn’t even know I was having a stroke at the time. I didn’t know what was wrong.”
After visiting the support group, Andy started taking part in organised walks and enjoyed it so much he set up his own group in North Tyneside, under the national Walking for Health initiative.