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Knowledge: first aid for heart attack and stroke victims

Person giving first aid

Every minute counts after a heart attack or a stroke. Here you can find out what to do in an emergency. 


Illustration Stroke

"Time is brain": the faster a blocked artery can be cleared or bleeding stopped, the less damage the brain will suffer. FAST is a good acronym for remembering how to quickly identify the most common symptoms. 

Face Face
Ask the person to smile: in the case of a stroke, the face droops on one side.

Arm Arm
Ask the person to raise both arms: after a stroke, they are unable to lift one arm fully or it quickly drops down again.

Speech Speech
Speech is not possible, indistinct, hard to understand or slurred.

Time Time
Immediately initiate emergency measures: call the ambulance service 144 or Rega 1414!


  • Paralysis on one side of the body (drooping of one side of the face, or weakness of the arms or legs)
  • Indistinct, slurred speech
  • Sudden sensory loss (numbness)
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty in seeing (e.g. seeing double)
  • Trouble finding words, loss of orientation and memory
  • Sudden loss of balance (e.g. tendency to fall to one side)
  • Headache (in the event of haemorrhage)

Emergency measures:

  • Immediately call the ambulance service 144 or Rega 1414
  • Make sure the person is in a stable position (avoid risk of falling)
  • Do not give anything to eat or drink
  • Do not give any blood thinning medication
  • If the person is unconscious but breathing normally: recovery position

Heart attack

Illustration heart attack

“Time is muscle”: the faster a heart attack victim is treated, the more heart muscle tissue can be saved, the better the prognosis of recovery, and the smaller the functional impairment.


  • Acute pressure, pain or a squeezing feeling behind the breastbone that cannot be precisely placed
  • Pain in the upper part of the stomach
  • Pain spreading to one or both arms, shoulders, neck, ears or jaw
  • Duration: longer than 20 minutes
  • Additional possible signs: feeling unwell, breaking out in a cold sweat, reduced performance, shortness of breath, anxiety

Emergency measures:

  • Call the ambulance service 144 or Rega 1414
  • Place the person in a relaxed position (upper body upright)
  • Any physical effort should be avoided
  • If available, the person should take their personal emergency medication (e.g. nitro spray prescribed by their GP)


You can find more on this subject in the current issue of our Rega Magazine 1414:

Rega Magazine 1414, Issue 87 (PDF, 6 MB)

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