WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
March 12, 2008 -- Caregivers for heart patients may have their own heart
risks that need attention, new research shows.
The findings suggest that when someone is hospitalized for heart disease, their loved ones
may step up their own heart health if given some guidance.
"It appears that cardiac caregivers may be at increased risk of cardiac
diseases themselves," Lori Mosca, MD, PhD, says in a news release.
"When a cardiac patient is hospitalized, there may be a unique
opportunity to identify and help family members at risk of heart disease
themselves," says Mosca, who is a professor of medicine and director of
preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University
Mosca's team sized up heart risks in 501 people who had a loved one
hospitalized with heart disease.
Among the participants, 39% were the primary caregiver for their loved one;
they were mainly married women age 50 and older.
Those caregivers were particularly likely to report two heart hazards:
eating too much saturated fat and having a larger waist. Also, those
experiencing a lot of caregiver stress tended to be depressed and not to have much
But caregivers turned their heart health around with a little help.
The researchers randomly assigned some caregivers to get screened and
educated about heart-healthy dietary habits, such as limiting how much fat and
cholesterol they ate.
Six weeks later, 79% of the caregivers met the dietary guidelines, up from
53% before screening and education.
Having a loved one hospitalized for heart disease may be a "motivational
moment" for caregivers to tend to their own hearts, if they get support to
"It's important that we develop more systematic approaches to
identifying caregivers, educating them and providing them with the proper
support systems," says Mosca. "If a caregiver dies of a heart attack, it's not going to help the cardiac
The findings were presented today at the American Heart Association's 48th
Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.
SOURCES:American Heart Association's 48th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular
Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, Colorado Springs, Colo., March 13-15,
2008.News release, American Heart Association.
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