People acting as caregivers for family members with cardiovascular disease may inadvertently increase their own risk for heart disease by neglecting their own health, according to a new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
"Our research shows that the potential increased risk posed by caregiving may be associated with lifestyle habits such as poor diet and decreased physical activity. And those with the highest level of strain from caregiving were at higher risk," said Lori Mosca, M.D., professor of medicine and director of preventive cardiology at Columbia Medical Center in New York.
In addition to the fact that many caregivers share similar lifestyle habits and genes as their family members, the act of caregiving itself is associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk. More than one-half of hospitalized cardiovascular disease patients plan to have an informal caregiver, such as a spouse or other family member, assist them.
Researchers followed 423 caregivers for a year after their family member was hospitalized for cardiovascular disease at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center between January 2005 and June 2007. Caregivers self-reported their lifestyle habits for twelve months after their loved one was hospitalized.