Recognising a stroke

A stroke usually happens very suddenly, and can be life-threatening. You have to act fast to ensure successful treatment and recovery. But how do you recognise the signs of a stroke and respond correctly?

Around 16,000 people in Switzerland suffer a stroke every year. Around one in four sufferers is no longer able to lead an independent life following a stroke. A stroke may be caused by a narrowing of the carotid artery or cerebellar artery, a blockage in the blood vessels or a brain haemorrhage. Particularly at risk are people with high blood pressure or special forms of cardiac arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation). Factors such as drinking, smoking and diabetes can result in a stroke because they lead to calcification of the arteries.

Because every second counts when someone has a stroke, it’s very important to recognise the symptoms correctly. Acting quickly can save lives and prevent long-term disability.


How do I recognise the signs of stroke?

The symptoms of a stroke commonly include problems seeing, speaking or understanding, paralysis and numbness, headache and dizziness.
Even if you have no medical knowledge you can do an easy test to check whether the symptoms indicate a stroke. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, ask them to

  • smile
  • raise their arms
  • speak a very simple sentence (e.g. “the weather is fine”)


If they have problems with any one of these tasks you must call an ambulance immediately. Until the ambulance arrives, make sure the person’s lying comfortably with their upper body raised. They shouldn’t eat or drink anything, as a stroke can often lead to problems swallowing. It’s very important for family members to keep calm.


In the event of further health-related questions, SWICA customers can contact the santé24 telemedicine service free of charge on +41 44 404 86 86. A telemedicine practice licence allows santé24 physicians to provide additional medical services in cases that are suited to a telemedicine approach. SWICA customers can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. During a subsequent phone call with santé24, customers can decide for themselves whether to release their information from SymptomCheck to santé24.