'I was a walking heart attack'
Ron Morris, 48, is married with three children aged 17, 14 and 11. The family lives in Stoke-on-Trent and Ron works as a printer in the nearby town of Stone.
Ron feels he had a lucky escape thanks to his NHS Health Check. When he received an invitation to attend one from his GP in December 2013, he had no doubts about taking up the offer, even though he felt fine.
"My father had a stroke at the same age as me, and this was always at the back of my mind," explains Ron.
"Although he survived for another 20 years, he had no life after the stroke, as his mobility was really restricted. Most of the time he was just sat in a chair, wasting away."
Even though Ron's father was a smoker, which Ron wasn't, he was right to be concerned. Your family history is one of the risk factors for a stroke.
A hospital emergency
Ron attended his appointment on his way to work – or so he thought. When his blood pressure was measured during his NHS Health Check – several times and by several different health professionals just to make sure – it was found to be dangerously high. So high in fact, that the doctors who saw him couldn't believe he was up and about.
He recalls: "The nurse looked at me and said: 'You're a walking heart attack or stroke. You're not going to work today – you're going to hospital'."
Ron says that he found the experience "surreal" because he didn't feel ill at the time. He was admitted to the acute medical unit at University Hospital of North Staffordshire, where he was put on a drip and given medication, which brought his blood pressure under control.
Over the next few days, Ron had other tests, including a CT scan and tests on his liver and kidneys, which luckily came back clear. On the third day, he was allowed to go home to his family, but he will be taking blood pressure-lowering medicines every day for the rest of his life, in addition to aspirin.
"I'd rather not have to take them, but they're doing an important job," he says.
How Ron manages his health now
Taking medicines to lower his blood pressure is just one of the ways Ron is managing his health these days. He has also taken a look at his diet and exercise habits.
"I used to be fitter when I was younger. I played a lot of sport, but as you get older these fade away. Since this happened I've been doing more swimming, and in the summer I'll cycle more and play golf."
As part of the follow-up support after his NHS Health Check, Ron was referred to a dietitian, who pointed out that the amount of salt he was eating was increasing his blood pressure.
"I hadn't realised that, but looking back I was eating a lot of a salt, so now I'm scanning food labels in supermarkets," says Ron. "It's quite frightening how much salt is in certain foods – a gammon steak can have 100% of your daily recommended salt intake."
Stroke: the silent killer
Ron's family is understandably relieved that he got the help he did before it was too late. "Otherwise my children wouldn't have anyone to drive them everywhere," he laughs.
He urges anyone receiving an invitation to an NHS Health Check to take it up. "It doesn't take long and could save your life. Who knows what could have happened to me if I hadn't gone.
"As the nurse said to me that day, stroke is called the silent killer for a reason."
This NHS Health Check video features Ron talking about his experiences.
Media review due: 3 September 2021
Page last reviewed: 1 November 2016
Next review due: 1 November 2019