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Alzheimer's Caregivers Can Lower Blood Pressure by Taking Part in Leisure Activities Alzheimer's Caregivers Can Lower Blood Pressure by Taking Part in Leisure Activities

Jun-30-2017 | 0 Comments

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US research has found that taking part in leisure activities such as taking a walk, reading, and listening to music, can reduce blood pressure levels of elderly caregivers for those with Alzheimer's disease. Carried out by a team from the University of California San Diego, the study included 126 caregivers who were taking part in the UCSD Alzheimer's Caregiver Study, a follow-up study looking at the associations between stress, coping, and cardiovascular risk in Alzheimer's caregivers. The caregivers had an average age of 74 years and were all providing in-home care for a spouse with Alzheimer's disease. The caregivers took part in annual interviews over a five-year period as part of the study, reporting on how often they engaged in various leisure activities. Many reported spending time outdoors, laughing, watching TV, listening to music, and reading or listening to stories, with around half reporting exercising frequently. Blood pressure were also taken to see if there was an association between the measurements and levels of leisure time. After taking into account other demographic and health factors, the team found that, as expected, caregivers who exercised more frequently had lower blood pressure. However, those who took part in other "more sedentary, reflective" leisure activities, such as reading, listening to music, and shopping, also benefited from lower mean arterial blood pressure -- a measure of average blood pressure. Those who frequently took part in pleasant leisure activities also showed in follow-up analyses a significant reduction in diastolic pressure (the second, lower blood pressure number), although not in systolic pressure (the first, higher number). In line with other previous studies, blood pressure also decreased after the caregivers' duties had come to an end, either because of death or because the spouse been placed in a nursing home. As being a caregiver for a spouse with Alzheimer's is a highly stressful experience, and stress a contributor to high blood pressure -- which is the strongest risk factor for cardiovascular disease -- the results suggest that caregivers may be able to reduce blood pressure and potentially cardiovascular risks by taking part in leisure activities. However, rather than recommending certain activities to everyone, the team pointed out that it's important for caregivers to enjoy the activities they do in order to receive the health benefits. Whatever caregivers choose lead author Brent T. Mausbach added that, "We believe three to four enjoyed activities each week could have a modest impact on an individual's blood pressure. From there, the more an individual can do, the better the impact." The findings were published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.

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