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Long-term caregiving is associated with impaired cardiovagal baroreflex.

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Caregiving stress is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Inability to adequately regulate blood pressure is a possible underlying mechanism explaining this risk. We examined the relationship between length of caregiving and cardiovagal baroreflex sensitivity (cBRS) to better understand the link between caregiving and CVD risk.


A total of 146 elderly individuals (≥55years) participated in this study, of whom 96 were providing in-home care to a spouse with dementia and 50 were healthy controls married to a non-demented spouse (i.e., non-caregivers). Among the caregivers, 56 were short-term caregivers (caring<4years) and 40 were long-term caregivers (caring≥4years). A multiple linear regression model, with contrast codes comparing short and long-term caregivers with non-caregivers was used to understand relationships between chronic caregiving and cBRS.


After controlling for relevant demographic and health characteristics, mean±SE log transformed cBRS for non-caregivers was 0.971±0.029. Relative to non-caregivers, the long-term caregivers had significantly impaired cBRS (0.860±0.033; p=0.013). However, mean cBRS for short-term caregivers did not significant differ from non-caregivers (0.911±0.028; p=0.144).


These results suggest that long-term caregiving stress is associated with an impaired cBRS. Accumulation of stress from years of caregiving could result in worse cBRS function, which could be a mechanistic explanation for the correlation between caregiving stress and the increased risk of CVD.

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