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Study Links Caregiving Strains to Increased Stroke Risk

Stroke risk found to be highest in African-American males who care for their spouses

FRIDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The strain of caring for a disabled spouse probably increases the risk of stroke, particularly among African-American men, according to a study published online Jan. 14 in Stroke.

William E. Haley, Ph.D., of the University of South Florida in Tampa, and colleagues conducted telephone interviews and home visits to collect medical information from 767 participants in the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke study. The subjects, who were all caregivers for a disabled spouse, were asked to characterize their caregiving strain (no strain, some strain, high strain).

The researchers found that high caregiving strain was associated with a 23 percent higher stroke risk (13.62 percent risk for high-strain caregivers compared to 11.06 percent for caregivers with no strain). The strain-stroke association was stronger in males and strongest in African-American men with high caregiving strain, who had a 26.95 percent estimated 10-year stroke risk. No relationship was discerned between caregiving strain and coronary heart disease risk.

"Caregiving strain is significantly associated with higher estimated stroke risk with greatest effects for men, particularly African-American men, providing caregiving to their wives. Male spouse caregivers may need special caregiving support. Prospective longitudinal studies should examine how sex and race may moderate the impact of stress on stroke and coronary heart disease risk," the authors write.

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