Nurses’ Health Study Research Results

December, 2017

Nearly 30 years ago I decided to join the Nurses’ Health Study and complete a 30 minute questionnaire about my habits and life style every two years. In the beginning, I colored in the little circles in black pencil on a computerized answer sheet and mailed it back to them, but now I do it online. They have kept up with me through my many moves so I haven’t been lost in the shuffle. I am in the second cohort of thousands of nurses called NHS2. They now have a third group of younger nurses born on or after January 1, 1965. If you are a RN, LPN, or nursing student born then and would like to participate, please do your part to continue this wonderful ground breaking research and sign up at www.nhs3.org . They are especially recruiting male nurses. They have also recruited and followed the children of NHS2 nurses to see the maternal influence on their children as they age. They like to recruit nurses because we are reliable and honest in reporting our life style. All our years of charting about our patients is definitely a benefit to this research!

Physical Activity and Heart Disease in Women

Middle-aged and older women who are more physically active have significantly lower rates of coronary heart disease (CHD). Women who walked briskly for at least 2.5 hours per week saw a 35% lower risk of developing CHD.

Get your walking in!

NSAIDS and acetaminophen may increase risk of hearing loss in women

Two-thirds of women in their sixties suffer from hearing loss. Among 55,850 women in a subgroup, using NSAID (Ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve are common over the counter names) for over 6 years was associated with a 10% increased risk of hearing loss. Use of acetaminophen (Tylenol is common brand name) for over 6 years showed a 9% increased risk of hearing loss. There was a 7% higher risk of hearing loss in women who used either of these more than two days per week. However, duration of use of aspirin was not associated with hearing loss. They are doing more research in this area.

Diet Quality and Physical Functioning

It is important to maintain physical function as we age. They compared those with the healthiest diets with less healthy diets and found the group with better diets were 13% less likely to develop physical impairment. Higher intake of fruits and vegetables, and lower intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, trans-fats, and sodium were associated significantly with less physical impairment as they aged. The strongest positive relations were found with increased intake of oranges, orange juice, apples, pears, romaine or leaf lettuce, and walnuts.

Gluten Free (GF) Diets

GF diets have increased in popularity due to concerns about celiac disease and gluten allergies. However, little research has been done to explore how GF diets impact people without celiac disease. NHS found that eating foods high in gluten from whole grains can be beneficial to health. Men and women with the highest levels of gluten intake had 20% lower risk of developing diabetes, and 15% less risk of developing coronary heart disease. Gluten intake did not lead to weight gain in people under age 65.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

They examined which specific foods and eating patterns led to less weight gain and more weight gain as we age.

These foods were associated with less weight gain: tofu, soy, plain or artificially sweetened yogurt, seafood, fruit (especially blueberries, prunes, apples, pears strawberries, grapefruit, and avocados). Chicken without skin, replacing 1 serving daily of sugar sweetened beverage with coffee or water, vegetables (especially cauliflower, summer squash, string beans, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables), replacing 1 serving daily of fruit juice with coffee or water, eating nuts (especially peanut butter, peanuts, and walnuts).

Eat your fruits and veggies for your health!

These foods were associated with more weight gain: corn, processed meats, peas, chicken with skin, sugar-sweetened beverages, baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes, fruit juice, regular full-fat cheese.

The American Journal of Public Health published a special edition in September 2016 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Nurse’s Health Study which is still available.

I hope you will incorporate these findings into your own life style and instruct your patients so everyone can be healthier!

But even more important than physical health is spiritual health. I thank Jesus Christ that He has satisfied the deepest hunger of my heart. “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that comes to Me shall never hunger, and he that believes on Me shall never thirst.” John 6:35

Jesus is the spiritual bread of life.

 

 

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My Nursing Thesis Published!

September, 1998 – New England, USA

After I completed my thesis in graduate school, my advisers encouraged me to submit an article summarizing my research findings for publication. The unwieldy title of my thesis was, “Coping Strategies of Successful Caregivers of Nonambulatory Family Members”. Nonambulatory means that the person is unable to walk.

My parents and one of my patients that I had followed as a visiting nurse inspired me to do the research. After my mother had a major stroke which left her paralyzed on one side and with the mind of a ten year old, my dad stepped up to the plate and cheerfully became her full time caregiver. He had to assist her in the shower, dress her, learn to style her hair, do the grocery shopping, cooking, driving, and pay the bills. Prior to her stroke, my mother was an avid artist and gardener. She grieved that she could no longer do these hobbies. The Lord took her home to heaven to be with Him five years after her stroke. I thanked God that she was no longer suffering.

“…Death is swallowed up in victory….But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:54, 57

My parents were my inspiration for my research.

Another patient I visited at home was an elderly lady who was paralyzed from the waist down from a blood clot that went to her spine. Her husband faithfully learned how to provide all her care and purchased a van equipped with a wheel chair lift. He struggled at times with sadness over his wife’s loss of many abilities, but he did all the household tasks and driving. Other patients with similar disabilities ended up being admitted to a nursing home because their caregiver simply couldn’t cope with all the extra responsibilities.

During my research, I interviewed nine caregivers of family members who were unable to walk and then summarized their problems and coping strategies. I repeated similar research that was done with caregivers of home hospice patients to see if they had the same problems and used the same or different coping strategies. Comparison of the two groups showed they only had one problem in common (stress) and three coping strategies (social support, cognitive reformulation, and respite). I developed an educational handout for nurses to give new caregivers of family members who were unable to walk.

I submitted my research article to The Nurse Practitioner journal and was thrilled when they accepted part of it for publication.  They condensed my year of research and 48 page thesis into THREE paragraphs. Such is the world of publishing… They included it under Practice Pointers and named it Lending a hand to caregivers.

If you need to counsel a caregiver of a family member who has recently lost the ability to walk, use these suggestions to ease the load. First, tell him not to try to give care alone, but to ask for and accept help from family, friends, and health care professionals. To relieve stress, suggest that he try exercise, massage, eating out, music, prayer, reading, and napping.

Make sure he asks a physical therapist for assistance in choosing a wheelchair, if his family member can use one. Suggest using cordless and cellular phones, a lifeline necklace, and a pager to communicate with his loved ones when the caregiver is out of the house.

Finally, when traveling, recommend the caregiver pack a travel kit with a list of medications, provider phone numbers, straws, wipes, and other supplies.”

Reflection

I can’t recall the last time I saw a lay person use a pager, and cordless land lines are disappearing rapidly. Cell phones are commonplace now, but they were rare in 1998.

After I entered the full time work world as a nurse practitioner, life seemed to become too busy to continue to do research. However, I have participated in the Nurse’s Health Study 2 since 1989 conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health. Their findings collected from surveys every two years of thousands of nurses have contributed significantly to women’s health. http://nurseshealthstudy.org If you are a nurse and you were born after 1964 and live in the USA, they are looking for participants to join Nurse’s Health Study 3. I hope you will do so and continue this wonderful research that was begun in 1979!