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Heartwarning News

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By David Martin, RN, President and CEO, VeinInnovations

Here’s heart warning – not heart warming – news from Canada that should be taken to heart by caregivers everywhere. What you’ve heard is true: being a caregiver is dangerous to your health.

The news is that this is true whether you are a man, woman, transgender, or asexual, bisexual, lesbian or gay. According to the study, taking on the traditional female caregiver role, more than being a female, increases your risk of having a second heart attack.

Led by a team from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), researchers observed that “characteristics traditionally ascribed to females seemed to adversely affect health outcomes, potentially though increased anxiety related to those characteristics.”

The reasons should come as no surprise to single-parent caregivers of all sexes, as the researchers cited “financial difficulties and/or the need to manage housework, child care, and work may represent a daily burden and chronic anxiety may result.”

This also comes as no surprise to those of us who’ve worked night shifts at emergency rooms and seen women come to the ER with their children in tow because they had no other place to bring them. Ironically, oftentimes the kids had been bathed and “dressed to the nines” before mom called the ambulance, or one of the kids called the ambulance.

Caregivers have to be sure everyone else is taken care of before they will pull the trigger to take care of themselves.

As a recent article based on American Heart Association reports says, ”An ongoing health care gap is further acknowledged which is influenced by women themselves.

“Statistics show that women present to emergency rooms or chest pain centers 1- 2 hours later than men. Multiple roles that a woman may have might also lead to this delay in care because of responsibilities to others, and women still perceive that heart disease is something that happens to one’s father, brother, or spouse,” writes Joyce Ross, a an advanced practice nurse practitioner whose credentials also include fellowships in the National Lipid Association and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association.

My guess is that the Canadian research team would expect the gender role, as opposed to the biological gender, to influence a heart-attack victim’s delay of showing up in emergency rooms 1-2 hours later – or many hours later – than men in traditional male roles.

Whatever the case, as medical professionals, we do need to look at the biological differences in men and women as relates to heart health, and we will explore this, and race, as a factors in columns to come. But for today, knowing that both research reports agree that the stress of caregiving has a negative impact on heart health, I’ll leave you with common sense and lifesaving tips for caregivers from helpguide.org, for your consideration:

Caregiver Stress and Burnout – Tips for Recharging and Finding Balance

  • Keep on top of your doctor visits. It’s easy to forget about your own health when you’re busy with a loved one’s care.
  • Don’t skip check-ups or medical appointments. You need to be healthy in order to take good care of your family member.
  • Exercise. When you’re stressed and tired, the last thing you feel like doing is exercising. But you’ll feel better afterwards. Exercise is a powerful stress reliever and mood enhancer. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes on most days. When you exercise regularly, you’ll also find it boosts your energy level and helps you fight fatigue.
  • Meditate. A daily relaxation or meditation practice can help you relieve stress and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. Even a few minutes in the middle of an overwhelming day can help you feel more centered.
  • Eat well. Nourish your body with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean protein, and healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil. Unlike sugar and caffeine—which provide a quick pick-me-up and an even quicker crash—these foods will fuel you with steady energy.
  • Don’t skimp on sleep. Cutting back on time in bed is counterproductive—at least if your goal is to get more done. Most people need more sleep than they think they do (8 hours is the norm). When you get less, your mood, energy, productivity, and ability to handle stress will suffer.

Resources and further reading:

Heart attack: Gender matters in predicting outcomes Gender role more important than biological sex in predicting health outcomes after heart attack

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160201125512.htm

Cardiovascular Disease in Women: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus – https://dmgcme.com/2016/02/cardiovascular-disease-in-women-men-are-from-mars-women-are-from-venus/

Acute Myocardial Infarction in Women A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2016/01/25/CIR.0000000000000351.full.pdf+html

Caregiver Stress and Burnout – Tips for Recharging and Finding Balance

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiving-stress-and-burnout.htm

A woman’s heart attack causes, symptoms may differ from a man’s

http://newsroom.heart.org/news/a-womans-heart-attack-causes-symptoms-may-differ-from-a-mans

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