MWHC Stroke Awareness Month

What is a stroke?


A stroke is a lack of oxygen to the cells in your brain that causes neurological symptoms to occur. When you lack oxygen, your blood flow is interrupted.


There are two kinds of stroke: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. An ischemic stroke occurs when there is a blood clot, blocking oxygen from flowing. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts, blocking oxygen to the cells.


What causes stroke?


A stroke can happen in both males and females but occurs more in males. As you age, you are at a higher risk for having a stroke. People over the age of 50 who have other medical conditions can be at even higher risk.


80% of strokes that we see are due to a blood clot and a lot of these blood clots are from atrial fibrillation. When someone has atrial fibrillation, the blood pools in the heart and forms a clot, which can then go to the brain and cause a stroke.


Also, if you have a family history of clotting, especially those under the age of 50, you’re going to be at increased risk of having a stroke, especially if there’s a genetic condition that runs in your family. Other stroke risk factors include hypertension, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, auto-immune conditions, stress, dehydration, and alcoholism.


What are the symptoms of a stroke?


To recognize the signs of a stroke, follow the mnemonic “BEFAST” and look for the following symptoms:


  • Balance – Not walking straight or walking wobbly.
  • Eyes – Blurry vision or experiencing double vision.
  • Face – Drooping of the face
  • Arm – Weakness in the arm or leg on one side of the body
  • Speech – Slurring, mispronouncing, or jumbling of words.
  • Time – A stroke can occur within a minute, call 911 immediately.


A stroke can occur anytime, anywhere. While 30% of strokes occur while sleeping, you can experience a stroke at the grocery store or while driving. If you or someone around you is experiencing a stroke, it’s imperative for the patient to get medical help as soon as possible. The sooner you recognize the signs, the better the chance of stroke survival.


It is common to mistake a stroke for a heart attack, but there are different symptoms. A stroke affects your body by making it weak, numb, or tingly with no pain. Heart attacks will affect your chest and jaw and will be painful.


Mary Washington Hospital’s Primary Stroke Center


At Mary Washington Hospital, our emergency department physicians, nurses, and staff start treating stroke patients right away. Our providers conduct a neurological exam, order CT scans or other tests if needed, and determine the best treatment options based on your health and medical history.


We are proud to be designated as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission. This means Mary Washington Hospital adheres to the highest standards of stroke patient care, both acutely and emergently.


As the region’s most experienced Primary Stroke Center, we utilize the latest technological advances, including artificially intelligent mobile brain imaging and virtual communication with providers in the field.


We have also earned a Gold Honor Roll Elite Stroke Plus award from the American Heart Association, signifying that our facility can give tPA, a clot-busting medication, to 85% of patients in less than 60 minutes.  Refer to for more information.