Graphic of person's brain indicating a stroke

Sometimes called a brain attack, a stroke occurs when blood to the brain stops, depriving it of oxygen and causing brain cells to die.  This cell death results in lost function to whatever area of the body the affected portion of the brain controls. It is the third largest cause of death in the United States, the primary cause of disability, and affects people of all ages, gender, and race.

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment or speak with a stroke specialist, please call


MedStar St. Mary's Hospital
Outpatient Pavilion, Second Floor
2550 Point Lookout Road
Leonardtown, Maryland 20650

Referral may be required.

If you or a loved one is suspected of having a stroke, please dial 9-1-1 or head to your nearest hospital immediately.  

Although it is a disease of the brain, stroke can affect the entire body. The effects of a stroke depend on which part of the brain is injured, and how severely it is injured.

Learn more below about stroke from warning signs to additional information about our Stroke Survivors' Support Group.


Stroke Warning Signs

If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the individual have high blood pressure?
  • Does he or she smoke?
  • Is the individual overweight or obese?
  • Does he or she get regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes on most or all days)?
  • Does he or she have diabetes?
  • Is there a family history of stroke?

Think FAST

The human nervous tissue is rapidly lost as a stroke progresses. Use the letters in FAST to help spot stroke symptoms.

  1. Face: Ask the individual to smile. An inability to smile or one-sided expression could indicate a stroke.
  2. Arms: Ask the individual to raise both arms. One-sided muscle weakness or paralysis may indicate a stroke.
  3. Speech: Ask the individual to say a simple sentence. Slurred speech or difficulty speaking are also signs of stroke.
  4. Time: Call 911. Reduce the time for receiving medical attention. Delay in receiving medical attention may increase the possibility of permanent damage or death.

How soon you get medical help can determine the severity of any permanent damage. If possible, try to accurately record the last known time of feeling normal (LKN). This is a critical aspect of recovery. 

Other signs and symptoms of stroke to look for:

  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden severe headache with no known
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination


Effects of Stroke

The common disabling effects are:

  • Paralysis or problems controlling movement: Paralysis is one of the most common disabilities resulting from a stroke. The paralysis is usually on the side of the body opposite the side of the brain damaged by stroke. It may affect the face, an arm, a leg or the entire side of the body.
  • Sensory disturbances including pain: Stroke patients sometimes lose the ability to feel touch, pain, temperature or position. Some patients experience pain, numbness or odd sensations of tingling or prickling in paralyzed or weakened limbs.
  • Problems using or understanding language: Approximately one-fourth of all stroke survivors experience language impairments, involving the ability to speak, write and understand spoken and written language.
  • Problems with thinking and memory: Strokes can damage those parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning and awareness. Survivors may have dramatically shortened attention spans or may experience deficits in short-term memory.
  • Emotional disturbances: Clinical depression is a common emotional disorder experienced by stroke survivors.

The effects of stroke can be devastating. Life-long disability or death, however, is no longer a given because of new and modern procedures and treatments. At MedStar St. Mary's Hospital, experts work together across our system to ensure patients receive the care they need, whether it's urgent care, brain surgery, the latest technologies for diagnostics and treatment, cutting-edge clinical trials, or rehabilitation. Because time is of the essence in treating stroke, our emergency department teams are trained to provide rapid, excellent care by making stroke a priority. In addition, we have a rapid response team that evaluates patients and sets in motion specific procedures to diagnose the cause of the stroke.


Risks and Prevention

Stroke is a disease that can affect anyone. However, specific traits and lifestyle behaviors can increase your risk. Knowing the risk factors and changing your lifestyle can help decrease your risk of having a stroke. 

Risk factors that you cannot control include:

  • Age: The risk of stroke increases with age. Two-thirds of all strokes occur in people older than 65, but an increasing number of people between the ages of 40 and 50 are having strokes.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to have a stroke, but women are twice as likely to die.
  • Race: African-Americans are 1.4 times more likely to die of stroke than Caucasians.
  • Family history: If an immediate family member had a stroke, your risk increases. History or transient ischemic attack

Risk factors that you can control:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity and obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease and atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)

Lower your risk of a stroke by adopting these healthy behaviors:

  • Get your blood pressure checked regularly. Elevated blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or higher) is a leading cause of stroke. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder to pump blood, putting added stress on the artery walls. Keeping your blood pressure under control with medication and exercise will put less strain on your blood vessels, reducing your risk.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is the most preventable cause of stroke. People who smoke double their risk of having a stroke. Talk with your doctor about smoking-cessation programs to help you quit the habit.
  • Eat a low-fat diet. Eating a diet that is high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and total fat can create fat deposits in the arteries. A person with a total cholesterol level between 200 mg /dL and 240 mg/dL has an increased risk of stroke. You can lower your cholesterol level and stroke risk by adopting a diet that is low in saturated fats, low in cholesterol and high in fiber.
  • Be physically active. Exercising for 30 minutes a day and reducing your intake of fat can help you maintain your desired weight and improve overall health. A lifestyle that does not include regular exercise can contribute to heart disease, which may lead to a stroke.
  • Take prescribed medications properly. Medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or mini-stroke increase your risk of a stroke. Your doctor may prescribe medications to help manage these conditions.
  • Do not drink alcohol excessively



The two major kinds of stroke are:

    • Ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot, which blocks an artery feeding the brain. When the blood supply is interrupted, that portion of the brain can no longer function.. About 80 percent of all strokes are ischemic. In many individuals, stroke is preceded by transient episodes of diminished blood supply. These transient ischemic attacks provide warning of impending stroke and create an opportunity to intervene before stroke occurs.
    • Hemorrhagic stroke results when a blood vessel bursts and leaks blood into the brain. A cerebral hemorrhage occurs when an artery in the brain ruptures, and blood under pressure forces itself into brain tissue. This creates a mass of blood that distorts nearby brain structures and interrupts brain function.


Primary Care Stroke Center

MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital recently received a five-year recertification as a Primary Stroke Center through the Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS)

We offer state-of-the-art technology for diagnosis and treatment of patients suspected of having a stroke. We have established protocols on how to treat stroke patients, based on evidence-based practices. Our stroke neurologists and neuro-imaging services are available 24-hours-a-day to aid in diagnosis and treatment. The Primary Care Stroke Center at MedStar St. Mary's has access to the Telestroke program at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.



We have been awarded with the 2019 Get With The Guidelines® Silver Plus Achievement Award. We are proud to have been recognized by The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. The American Stroke Association is solely focused on reducing disability and death from stroke. Our participation in Get With The Guidelines®/Mission: Lifeline® demonstrates our commitment to quality care. At MedStar St. Mary's Hospital, we care about our patients and are proud to be a part of the American Heart Association’s® efforts to turn guidelines into lifelines. Being honored for giving excellent patient care is the best recognition a hospital can receive. 


Stroke Survivors' Support Group

Learn more about causes of stroke, recovery and how to prevent future problems at the monthly Stroke Survivors' Support Group. The group meets the third Tuesday of every month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Health Connections, located in the Outpatient Pavilion. The group discusses topics related to stroke, recovery, and how to prevent future problems. Caregivers are welcome. Call 301-475-6019 to register for this free support group.