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December 3, 1999     Cape Gazette
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December 3, 1999

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42 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, December 3 - December 9, 1999 Spouses of heart disease patients face higher risk American Heart Association releases new information By Bernice C. Yates, Ph.D., R.N. and Susan Blancher, R.N., Ph.D. Women whose husbands are re- covering from heart attacks or open heart surgery may have a significantly increased risk of car- diovascular disease themselves, according to a study presented re- cently at the American Heart As- sociation Scientific Sessions. "Currently, all of our attention centers on the heart attack pa- tients' need to lower their risk fac- tors in order to avoid disease pro- gression," said Lynn C. Macken, R.N., M.A., coordinator of car- diac and pulmonary rehabilitation at Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff, Neb. "This study indicates that targeting the spouse of the patient may be important too." The researchers studied a group of 170 men who recently had a heart attack or had undergone coronary bypass surgery for blockages in heart arteries. Ap- proximately two months after the heart attack or heart surgery, the patient and his wife separately an- swered questionnaires on heart disease risk factors. The re- searchers analyzed the degree to which spouses shared risk factors, either good or bad. "What we are seeing is that the wives of heart attack patients have risk factors similar to their hus- bands," Macken said. "In some cases, the women's risk factors were even higher than their hus- bands, which is particularly alarming because the women tended to be younger than their mates and were not being screened for potential heart dis- ease." In many cases, one risk factor shared between spouses was high body mass index (BMI), a meas- ure of body fat. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is defined as overweight, while a BMI above 30 is consid- ered obese. Macken's group found that in 76 percent of the couples, at least one person was overweight or obese. Both part- NewYork Yankee faces new challenge: New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch is stepping up to a challenge greater than any he has faced on the field - having a parent with Alzheimer's disease. Knoblauch's father, Ray, was diagnosed with the debilitating disease in 1996, almost six years after the symptoms of memory loss im- pacting his everyday life first appeared. As a result of his father's experiences with the dis- ease, Chuck Knoblauch wants families who may be concerned about a loved one's memo- ry loss to know that early diagnosis and med- ical intervention, such as treatment with the prescription medicine Aricept (donepezil hy- drochloride), can make a difference for some patients and their caregivers. "I know firsthand the tremendou's toll Alzheimer's disease takes on a person's life and on their families," he said. "Once we de- cided to seek professional help for my dad, we learned effective treatments, such as Aricept, can help some people to preserve their memo- ry and maintain independence longer. I just wish we had paid closer attention to Dad's for- getfulness and brought him to his doctor soon- er." Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder that results in impaired memory and thinking, behavior changes, and loss of language and motor skills. Currently, the, disorder affects approxi- mately 4 million Americans and 19 million family KNOBLAUCH members. Knoblauch recalls that in 1991, his father began having problems with his speech, hav- ing difficulty finding words to say, saying words incorrectly and even inventing his own words. "Sometimes he would forget what everyday household objects were called," he said. "But we thought these were normal signs of aging, and we never consulted a physician." "Probably the biggest barrier to diagnosis is that too often, aging Americans and their fam- ilies believe that forgetfulness and other signs of Alzheimer's disease may be 'normal aging.' When such symptoms affect everyday life they may not be signs of normal aging and should be taken more seriously," said Dr. Nor- ners were overweight or obese in 50 of the couples. Only 40 cou- ples shared normal BMI levels. In addition, in only 75 of the 170 couples did both members know their current cholesterol level. There were also similarities in current and past smoking histo- ries and exercise levels, indicating other" ways spouses share a high- risk lifestyle, Macken said. Twice as many women as men continued to smoke following the male patient's heart attack or oth- er coronary event. In addition, fewer women were exercising compared to men. "When we are working with pa- tients to help them change high risk lifestyle behaviors such as smoking and lack of exercise, we Dad has Alzheimer's man Relkin, director, New York Weill Cor- nell's Memory Disorders Program. "It's im- portant to realize that old age is not synony- mous with memory impairment." Unfortunately, family members often over- look the early signs of Alzheimer's disease, delaying diagnosis and the start of effective treatment. Individuals exhibiting one or more of the following early warning signs that affect everyday life should see a physician to deter- mine the cause and, if necessary, begin treat- ment: Saying the same thing over and over Asking the same questions over and over Getting lost easily, even in familiar places Losing interest in things he/she once en- joyed Forgetting simple words or using inappro- priate words Losing things more often than normal Exhibiting changes in mood, behavior or personality Struggling to find words to say "Family members also need to be aware of what we call 'cover-up' behavior," Relkin Continued on page 43 ::.:: :- How do you define Superior MRI? Staff Our Johns Hopkins affiliation allows us to provide very sophisticated services. On-site MRI certified physicians and technologists ensure the best and safest MRI study possible. Providing the highest quality MRI possible since 1987. CENTRAL CENTER for DELAWARE OPeN MRI .... " MRI JDOoh::rHkif;;M::: Affifaot:dn lllllg l 6g:w5a81u60n::oSp88N) 624 5860 tend to assume that the patient is sharing that information with his or her family. This study indi- cates that is not happening, and it also said that we need to target risk reduction to include not only patients, but spouses too," she said. "If we want to lower riskfactors for patients, the change will have to begin at home and we have to be aware that both spouses may be in need of treatment," she said. "In our own program, we invite the spouses to participate. Al- though some spouses do partici- pate, we don't measure their risks and we donft counsel the spouses individually," she said. "We need to think of new ways to inform and educate spouses, to give them a health risk appraisal and urge them to make lifestyle changes of their own and to seek treatment if necessary." How Long Could You Afford To Pay 1536,000 A Year Or More For Long Term Care In A Nursing Home Or Your Own Home? 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