Heart & Stroke Emergencies

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and stroke. The following information on angina, strokes and myocardial infarction can save your life or that of a loved one.

In the past few years, clot-busting drugs, angioplasty and other techniques have revolutionized the way paramedics and emergency room personnel treat heart and stroke emergencies. A few years ago, stroke victims were sent off for physical rehabilitation, but today, if the onset of a stroke can be detected rapidly, most victims can benefit from emergency drug therapy that can often reverse the debilitating effects of a stroke. The same drug therapy and treatment also applies to victims of certain types of heart attacks.


A stroke, or cerebral vascular accident (CVA), is a medical emergency that affects the brain. Strokes are among the leading causes of death in Canada.

What causes a stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood vessels in the brain are blocked by blood clots, or when a blood vessel ruptures. With the blood flow to the brain obstructed the brain cells die due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients.

What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke?

Someone having a stroke may experience one or more of the following signs or symptoms;

Slurred speech or confusion

Changes in behavior

Visual disturbances such as blurred or diminished vision

Sudden weakness to the face, arms or legs, especially on one side of the body

Sudden difficulty in walking, loss of coordination or balance

Sudden severe headache of unknown cause


Loss of bladder control and/or incontinent of feces

What to do when someone is having a stroke?

Dial 9-1-1 immediately and ask for an ambulance- the sooner paramedics are notified of a person having a stroke, specialized treatment is available that MAY be able to reverse the effects of a stroke - Time is of the essence

If the person goes unconscious lay them on their side and monitor their airway, breathing, and circulation

Comfort the person, although they may be unable to communicate with you, chances are that they can hear and understand everything that is said

What will the ambulance do when they arrive?

Deliver oxygen through a mask, increasing oxygen to the brain

Take vital signs -blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate

Apply a cardiac monitor

An intra venous line may be started

How to prevent a stroke?

Keep your blood pressure under control

If you smoke - quit! Smoking increase the risk of having a stroke

Keep your diabetes under control. Diabetes increases the chance of having a stroke

Reduce the amount of cholesterol in your diet.

Stay active. Physical activity will help reduce the risk of having a stroke.

If there is a family history of stroke, tell your physician. Ask how you can reduce the chance of having a stroke

Take your medication as prescribed by your physician

Undergo yearly medical exams