Family caregivers experience psychological distress or physical strain that may lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) morbidity and mortality.
This systematic review aimed to describe the current evidence and gaps in the literature on measures used to assess CVD outcomes in family caregivers, the association of caregiving with CVD incidence/risk outcomes, and associated factors in family caregivers of patients with chronic disease.
Medline, PubMed, CINAHL, Web of Science, and Google Scholar were searched for English-language, peer-reviewed studies published from 2008 to 2020 that examined CVD incidence and risk among family caregivers of adults with chronic conditions.
Forty-one studies were included in this review. The measures used to assess CVD risk were categorized into biochemical, subclinical markers, components of metabolic syndrome, and global risk scores. Compared with noncaregivers, caregivers were more likely to have higher CVD incidence rates and objectively measured risk. Cardiovascular disease risks were also increased by their caregiving experience, including hours/duration of caregiving, caregivers' poor sleep status, psychological symptoms, poor engagement in physical/leisure activities, and care recipient's disease severity.
Although there were limited longitudinal studies in caregivers of patients with diverse health conditions, we found evidence that caregivers are at high risk of CVD. Further research for various caregiver groups using robust methods of measuring CVD risk is needed. Caregiver factors should be considered in developing interventions aimed at reducing CVD risk for caregivers.