A GRANDFATHER-OF-SIX who survived two strokes said he is continuing to enjoy exercising and keeping fit despite his ordeal.

Bill Swift, 71, from Burnley, had always been a keep fit fanatic, running competitively in half marathons and runs.

A former paramedic, Mr Swift had taken part in the London Marathon and was running or cycling most days.

But in February 2015 Mr Swift had a mini-stroke (TIA) in February 2015 and that TIA was initially diagnosed as a seizure.

After continuing to run and cycle over the following weeks, everything seemed fine, but he then had a full stroke two months later.

It left Mr Swift having to spend eight days in hospital and two weeks in rehabilitation.

But despite having weakness in his left side, he is now on the road to recovery and is determined to continue to keep fit and enjoying his hobby, but just in different ways.

This includes using Nordic walking poles and rowing instead of running.

He said: “I find it very difficult to run now and struggle to coordinate, but I have Nordic walking poles and row instead of running.

“My stroke has affected me in a big way and there are days when I feel awful, but I’m determined not to let it stop me. I want people to know that a stroke can happen to anybody, regardless of age or fitness levels.”

Mr Swift now wants to raise awareness of stroke and encourage people to make sure they have the support around them to help them recover.

He has spoken after new research by charity the Stroke Association has found that narly half of UK adults know someone who has had a stroke (20 million people).

But most admit to a lack of awareness and understanding needed to support stroke survivors in their recovery.

He said: “It’s very important to have people around you who understand and are willing to support.

“When I came out of hospital, my running buddy came out with me and it took us half an hour to walk half a km. His support and the fact he was understanding was invaluable.

“When I went back to church, even people who didn’t know me before the stroke understood and it helped me so much.

“A stroke affects your emotions, and that emotional support from people who understand makes such a difference. If I ever go into a situation where people don’t know I’ve had a stroke, I tell them tactfully in conversation.

“It’s up to survivors to let people know, don’t be ashamed.

“Tell people you might just need a little extra help.

“It’s just a matter of not being afraid to tactfully let them know, “ he added.

Chris Larkin, director at the Stroke Association, said: “There are over 1.2 million stroke survivors living in the UK – many of whom are reliant on their friends and family, from help with daily living to understanding their emotional and mental health needs.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. We’re urging those people who know someone who has had a stroke to help turn this around and fill this knowledge gap. Reach out to the Stroke Association for help, so that together we can support stroke survivors to rebuild their lives.”