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Occupational Therapy and Stroke in Women

Updated on February 4, 2010

Stroke In Women


 Stroke In Women

Stroke, or cerebrovascular accident as it is called in medical circles, is the third leading cause of death in women, after cancer and heart disease, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  In recent years the number of women having strokes has begun to exceed that of men. But did you know that a stroke can be prevented? Statistics show that women who smoke, are obese and have high cholesterol are at a higher risk for stroke. So, it should be simple, right? Quit smoking, lose the weight and lower your cholesterol level (and by the way, these two usually, but not always, go together) and everything will be okay. Well, not quite. Family history and other factors unique to women may play a part.

What causes a stroke

The most common cause of stroke is an interruption of blood flow to the brain. This is known as an ischemic stroke, which can result from

1)      Blood clots. They can block arteries that supply nutrients and oxygen to the brain

2)      A build-up of plaque (fatty material) in the arteries can also cause narrowing and hardening of the arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.

The other type of stroke is called a hemorrhagic stroke. This occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and blood leaks into the brain.

Risk factors for stroke in women

In addition to the factors listed above, women who use alcohol, cocaine and birth control pills place themselves at a higher risk for stroke. Pregnancy, loss of estrogen as a result of menopause, destruction of arterial blood vessels and, of course, age are some risk factors unique to women.

Stroke symptoms in women

The general symptoms of a stroke are : headaches, weakness on one side of the body, blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty walking, confusion and nausea. In women, these symptoms may also be present: facial pain, hiccups, palpitation and shortness of breath.

How occupational therapy can help

Depending on the severity of the stroke, a stroke survivor may need rehabilitative care consisting of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. One of the major goals of occupational therapy is to help a person perform her activities of daily living, or ADLs are they are called. While the patient is still in the hospital or nursing facility, the occupational therapist goes to the patient’s room and teaches her how to get on and off the toilet, bathe and dress herself, brush her teeth and comb her hair.

Occupational therapy uses a series of graded interventions to help the patient return to her former level of functioning, or at least, maximize her functional potential. In the beginning, the patient may only be able to sit at the edge of the bed and brush her hair. With continued therapy, she would be able to get into a chair and give herself a sponge bath. Later, she will move to performing the same functions standing at the sink.

Getting dressed presents a special challenge to the stroke patient. One-side weakness, poor balance and coordination, reduced strength, spasticity (stiffness of the limb) or flaccidity (floppiness) all make it difficult for the patient to remove or put on her blouse, and even more so her underwear or pants. With the help of adaptive equipment, the therapist teaches the patient to perform these tasks.

Some stroke survivors may never get to the point where they can bathe or dress themselves, and taking care of such a patient can be a daunting task. However, with the help of the occupational therapist, the  caregiver can acquire the skills necessary to carry out these functions.   



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    • quildon profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Joseph 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Thank you, Didge!

    • Didge profile image


      6 years ago from Southern England

      Great hub! I really enjoyed reading it.

    • quildon profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Joseph 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Thanks DeBorrah. I'm proud to be an OT.

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 

      8 years ago

      Habee, Wonderful hub! You have provided some great information here! OT's provide a much needed service! Thank you for sharing, Blessings!

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 

      8 years ago

      Quildon, Wonderful hub! You have provided some great information here! OT's provide a much needed service! Thank you for sharing, Blessings!

    • quildon profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Joseph 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Yes, they are. Thanks for your comment.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      OTs are amazing! They can accomplish miracles!


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