«There’s a tendency to deny the true cause of the disease. The increase in obesity and sedentary lifestyles translates into a greater risk of strokes»
TEXTO: NURIA DEL OLMO. @NDELOLM074 PHOTOS: MÁXIMO GARCÍA
Three years ago, Julio Agredano (Madrid, 1972) created the Freno al Ictus [Stop Strokes] Association. This was after suffering two ischemic strokes on the last day of his family’s summer holiday, at the age of 39, and just a few days before resuming his hectic professional life. Recovery was a lengthy process. A few years ago he could barely speak or write. He had to start over from scratch, yet today he has hardly any sequelae. He travels the world to share his experience, highlight the disease’s dangers in companies and schools and, above all, raise awareness among adults and children of the importance of healthy lifestyles and that mental and physical health are key to preventing this disease.
What did you feel when you had the stroke?
I remember it perfectly. I felt dazed and saw double. I couldn’t imagine I was having a stroke. It was a shock!
What did you do?
I went to bed. A stroke is a disease which, in most cases, doesn’t hurt, with the result that many victims put it down to fatigue and just wait for the dizziness and weakness symptoms to have gone the next day. This is a grave mistake, as waiting is precisely what we should not do.
A stroke is not exclusive to the elderly. It also affects younger people. Why is that?
Indeed, a stroke is not synonymous with old age. It affects 35 percent of the working age population. It hit me when I was young, although I did weigh 113 kilos and had cholesterol and hypertension. At that time I was a sales manager in a major company, working at a relentless pace in a really demanding job. In Freno al Ictus we insist that this disease is primarily due to a lack of knowledge about the need for healthy living habits.
Are the risk factors on the rise?
Without a doubt. Despite the fact that there has never been so much information available to lead a healthy life, the risk factors keep rising. There’s a tendency to deny the true cause of the disease. When we ask those affected why they think they suffered a stroke, many put it down to nerves, stress, a scare or bad luck, and not to their poor diet, smoking, drinking or lack of physical exercise. That’s why health promotion is so important.
You insist on a phrase, that we must die young as late as possible Indeed so.
Spain is one of the countries with the highest life expectancy, but not in quality of life. In other countries they live less, but they remain active and in good health until the last day.
What habits did you change?
I gave up practicing sports when I turned 30 and I paid the price. I’ve taken up exercise again now and I’m even a member of a cycling team. It’s become a habit. Physical activity is a fantastic prevention tool. Nothing but benefits.
Stress is one of our greatest enemies. What can we do if we have chosen a demanding profession?
I believe it is vital to stop. We have to learn how to find some time for ourselves. But, always without a cell phone and feeling totally free from pressure from anyone. For it to work, it must be voluntary.
How can a brain be rescued after it has suffered a stroke?
I left hospital barely able to walk. Integrating back into society after a trauma of this kind calls for a supreme personal effort, but also from the family. In this regard, the system is failing. The existing resources are insufficient.
You went back to work after one year.
I sought voluntary reincorporation to my job with 75 percent functional ability. My daily routine consisted of selling, talking, explaining and convincing. Your attitude is critical, especially in the first few months. I was lucky that my company understood the situation.
Do you believe that preventing vascular disease must start right from childhood?
That’s right. Freno al Ictus goes to elementary and high schools, and companies over a large part of Spain to inform the public about this disease. We insist a lot on lifestyle habits. There is a lack of information and awareness to get people to act, to put a stop to it.