Save the date! CERN Stroke awareness campaign 17 October 2024

Ahead of World Stroke Day on 29 October, the CERN Medical Service will run a Stroke awareness campaign in collaboration with the Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG) and other partners on 17 October 2024.

The event will include activities to assess your risk of stroke, understand the impact of stroke on survivors, and feature a lunchtime talk from HUG and young stroke survivors Elise and Louis. Register for the talks now on Indico !

Elise and Louis' remarkable story was the subject of a renowned French documentary series, as their lives became intertwined whilst recovering from sudden strokes in their 20s. The highly reccomended story is available here (English Subtitles).

 A Poster for the Stroke Awareness Campaign on the 17th of October 2024

Our partners: Novae Restaurants, Hopitaux universites geneve (HUG), World stroke organisation, Association S'adapter, and Fragile Geneve

Stroke and Cardiovascular Disease

In terms of medical emergencies, few conditions strike with the sudden and devastating force of a stroke. The information on this page will empower you to spot the signs of a stroke, and reduce your personal risk of suffering a stroke in the future.

Strokes fall under the larger umbrella of cardiovascular diseases. A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted, leading to a cascade of neurological events that can permanently alter lives in mere moments. Despite advancements in medical science, strokes remain the second-leading cause of death and the third-leading cause of death and disability combined in the world (World Stroke Organization, 2022). The table below shows the prevalence of stroke globally, alongside other cardiovascular diseases.

Contrary to popular belief, a stroke can affect people at any age, whatever their gender, with women having more complex risk factors and symptoms than men. Scroll down for more information on your risk factors and a personalised assessment tool.

Around 30% of people who have survived a stroke retain some form of disability, including paralysis, sensory loss, memory, speech or vision problems. The consequences can be serious for the patient and their support network. You can help to reduce the impact of a stroke by spotting the signs ... and acting FAST!

The "FAST" acronym, illustrated. F.A.S.T. Face. Arms. Speech. Time to call for help.

Know the signs, save a life: Act FAST!

You can learn how to recognise a stroke very easily and get help before the damage spreads. You simply need to think F.A.S.T.

A stroke is a sudden loss of one or more brain functions due to problems with blood supply to the brain. This can manifest as a sudden onset of one or more easy-to-spot symptoms.

The FAST test (see below) is a quick and simple way to recognise these key signs, which include a deformation of the mouth; sudden weakness or numbness on only one side of the face; loss of strength or numbness in the arm or leg; difficulty speaking or understanding; impaired vision. Women may also experience non-traditional stroke symptoms such as sudden face and limb pain, hiccoughs, nausea, general weakness, and shortness of breath.

The FAST test can help identify stroke symptoms quickly and accurately, allowing for prompt medical attention and treatment.

F  Face: ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A - Arms: ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S - Speech: ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T - Time: call emergency services immediately if any of these symptoms are present.

In an emergency, call the CERN Fire and Rescue Service + 41 22 767 44 44 OR the European emergency number 112.

FAST is not just a useful acronym. The chances of survival and functional recovery following a stroke depend on speed of intervention. A stroke should be treated without delay as soon the first symptoms appear: the risk of lasting effects increases with each passing minute, so acting fast is paramount.

Stroke First Response:

If you suspect a stroke:

- Lay the patient down. If possible, with a pillow under their head. Reassure them.
- Do not make the person ingest anything, including medication, as a stroke can cause problems with swallowing.
- Call the emergency services and describe as precisely as possible the signs that alerted you, the start time, the way in which the symptoms appeared and their evolution, as well as the state of consciousness.
- The operator may give you further instructions. Stay on the phone. Do not hang up until told to do so.

Prevention is better than cure

Risk Factors

A stroke can impact anyone at any time, whatever the age or gender, but the risk increases with age and according to the risk profile. Many strokes are preventable: you can reduce your risk of having a stroke simply by being aware of, and controlling certain lifestyle factors. 90% of strokes are associated with 10 risk factors we can all act upon:

Women have unique hormonal factors that can influence their risk of stroke. For example, pregnancy can lead to risk factors like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia; the menopause and the use of hormonal contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy can increase the risk of stroke. Further risk factors that are more prevalent in women include migraine with aura and certain autoimmune diseases like lupus. Additionally, women are more likely to have atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm) which increases the risk of stroke.

There is an emerging correlation between the level of blood-based microplastics and increased stroke risk, as well as a causal connection between air pollution and stroke risk.

Lifestyle changes

Given the above risk factors, you can greatly reduce your risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases, at any stage of your life, by adopting the following lifestyle changes:

  1. Increase your physical activity. For example: Walk more, cycle, or take up sporting activities as you prefer.
  2. Eat a healthy and balanced diet, which is low in fat and high in fibre from fruit, vegetables, and grains. With under 6g of salt per day.
  3. Stop smoking, which triples your risk of stroke. Advice on how to quit can be found here.
  4. Lose weight, if you are overweight, by following points 1 & 2 or consulting these techniques.
  5. Reduce your alcohol consumption, and avoid episodes of excessive drinking.
  6. Reduce psychosocial factors such as stress and depression. Try using our stress reduction techniques, such as cardiac coherence or self-massage, to help.
  7. If you have high cholesterol or blood pressure, see a doctor for advice, and read our cardiovascular health advice.
  8. See a doctor regularly if you have associated risk conditions such as diabetes or atrial fibrillation.
  9. Take the stroke risk factors test (below) for more personalised advice!

Ensure you have regular check-ups with your doctor to take the necessary measures relevant to your own risk profile.

Can I get a personalised risk profile?

Yes! The Stroke Riskometer App ( can provide you with a personalised assessment of stroke risk based on your biological and lifestyle factors. It will provide personalised advice on how to reduce your risk of stroke based on the answers you provide.

Take time to browse the app for other news and information about strokes, their prevention and dealing with the impacts of stroke on our lives.

This is not a substitute for visiting your doctor, as the app will remind you. Only your doctor can provide more detailed personalised assessments and advice.