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Caregiving Stress May Impair Endothelial Function

May result in higher risk for cardiovascular disease in elderly caregivers of spouses with dementia

THURSDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- The stress of caring for a spouse with Alzheimer's disease may increase the risk of cardiovascular events due to impaired endothelial functioning, according to research published in the June 8 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

To examine the relationship between chronic caregiving stress and endothelial function, Brent T. Mausbach, Ph.D., of the University of California San Diego in La Jolla, and colleagues analyzed 78 elderly individuals, 55 of whom were providing in-home care to a spouse with Alzheimer's disease, and 23 of whom were living with a healthy, non-demented spouse.

The researchers found a significant association between Clinical Dementia Rating scores and flow-mediated dilation (FMD); subjects who served as caregivers to a spouse with moderate to severe dementia had significantly worse FMD than those whose spouses had mild or no dementia. There was also a significant relation of FMD to number of years caregiving in the caregiver group.

"These results suggest that the chronic stress of caregiving is associated with impaired endothelial function, which may be a potential mechanistic link to the observed increased risk of cardiovascular disease in elderly caregivers," the authors write.

Two study authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.

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