Heart Disease and Women Part 5: Answers to the Cardiac Risk Quiz

Heart disease risk

The last post gave five case examples and readers were asked to identify the cardiac risk factors in each. In addition, readers were asked which of the five had the most cardiovascular risk and which had the least. Finally, readers were asked to identify the counseling recommendations for each patient. The following are the answers to the questions and a discussion of each answer.

Which of the five women is at greatest risk for heart disease?

All five women have risk factors for heart disease however based upon what we know now about each of them, Ms. Joseph is at greatest risk. She has two of the most significant risk factors, smoking and diabetes. Ms. Joseph also has more risk factors than the others and risk accumulates with each additional risk factor. These include that she is over 65, menopausal, sedentary and has little or no social contacts. Because she has diabetic complications we may find other risk factors upon gathering additional data.

Ms. Ott and Ms. Hollister would be the next most at risk. Ms. Ott because of the significant risk factors of continued tobacco use, hyperlipidemia and poor treatment adherence. Ms. Hollister because of the cumulative number of risk factors, including family history of heart disease, menstrual irregularity and now menopause, sedentary lifestyle, being overweight and excessive intake of alcohol.

Which of these women is at the least risk?

Ms. Falwell is in the best cardiovascular health of the group. Her hypertension is well controlled. Her alcohol and drug use and emotions about the separation from her children are the only contributors to her risk of heart disease. She is of normal weight, physically and socially active. Ms. Garcia’s only risk factors are obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Obesity, though is a significant contributor to heat disease (2-3 x risk increase) and because she is continuing to gain weight, Ms. Garcia cannot be considered at lowest risk.

What are the recommendations you would make in counseling each of these women?

Case example 1. Ms. Falwell’s counseling emphasizes three points: a. continued involvement and attention in managing her hypertension (regular monitoring and medication adherence) b. stress management and developing healthy avenues to address anger and anxiety c. limiting drug and alcohol use (perhaps participating in the facility AA or NA groups or attending classes to increase her knowledge about the effects of drug and alcohol as well as treatment options). Ms. Falwell already has several good lifestyle habits that can be leveraged to increase opportunity to control cardiac risk.

Case example 2. Ms. Joseph’s counseling is focused on achieving good control of her diabetes to prevent further complications as well as the identification and early intervention to address other cardiac risk factors, including obesity, dyslipidemia and hypertension. Most correctional facilities no longer allow smoking so Ms. Garcia has been forced into smoking cessation which will lower her cardiac risk over time but if she is to be released to the community continued smoking cessation would be an important goal for her. I would also recommend a mental health evaluation to rule out depression or another mental health disorder as an explanation for her social isolation and based upon those results try to increase her social interactions. Lastly, a program to increase her physical activity should be developed that is appropriate for her age and physical limitations.

Case example 3. Ms. Ott’s counseling is directed to smoking cessation as a first priority and second, the effectiveness of her treatment for hyperlipidemia. While smoking at the facility is prohibited Ms. Ott continues to crave cigarettes and has violated this disciplinary rule recently. She should be encouraged to participate in one or more smoking cessation programs that are available at the correctional facility and her steps to do this discussed and acknowledged during her health care appointments. Ms. Ott’s medication administration record should be monitored and she should be seen regularly to discuss adherence with the medication she is prescribed. Barriers to adherence should be identified and ways to resolve adherence problems developed with the patient. A change in medication should be considered if her lipid levels cannot be lowered with the currently prescribed medication. Her lipid levels should be monitored closely.

Case example 4. Ms. Garcia’s counseling emphasizes weight loss, proper nutrition and incorporating exercise into her daily life. She has gained weight since admission to prison and is now more than 30% overweight, a tremendous increase in cardiac risk. She already is on a heart healthy, reduced calorie medical diet but eats a lot of canteen food. She should be monitored regularly for symptoms of hypertension, dyslipidemia, and metabolic syndrome perhaps best done in a cardiovascular chronic disease program or nursing driven wellness program, she should receive education about heart disease prevention and encouraged to adopt better eating habits and to begin walking or some other form of aerobic exercise three to five times a week. Finding out what she is most motivated to change and helping her to develop plans to make small change or new behavior is the primary focus of counseling Ms. Garcia.

Case example 5. Ms. Hollister’s family history cannot be changed so her counseling focuses on the alterable risk factors of weight control, exercise, and limited alcohol use. She gave a history of significant alcohol use and should be referred for alcohol and drug counseling, and encouraged to attend AA or NA groups, if she has not already. Helping her to understand her risk of heart disease resulting from alcohol use may provide additional motivation for her to participate in treatment. Education about nutrition choices on the institution menu and canteen, counseling or problem solving to reduce caloric intake along with weight monitoring to lose some or all of the 35 extra pounds would be another counseling goal for Ms. Hollister. She also would benefit from adding aerobic exercise three to five times a week to her schedule. A group wellness or heart healthy program is a convenient way to provide information, educate and encourage adoption of lifestyle changes that increase fitness and reduce weight.

Each of these women would benefit from knowing their cardiac risk profile and participating in an earnest discussion about what can be done to limit or prevent heart disease. Any success you have with these patients not only effects their health during incarceration but far into the future. Even if you are not successful in achieving a single improvement now the information you provide makes it more likely one or more of these women will make a change in the future than if you did nothing. After suicide, heart disease was the leading cause of death among women in jails in the United States from 2000 through 2013. Except for cancer, heart disease caused the most deaths among women in prison in the United States during this same time period (2015).

You might want to identify those women at your facility who have the highest risk for cardiovascular disease and then offer a counseling, diet and activity program developed to reduce their risk. It would be interesting to see what results would be achieved at 4 weeks, 8 weeks and 12 weeks. It would be a great study especially if it was compared to a control group.

What ideas do you have about nurses’ involvement in programs to reduce heart disease and related deaths among women who are incarcerated? Please comment by responding in the comments section of this post.

The following are some excellent online resources about heart disease and women:

To read more about nursing care of women patients in correctional settings with cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases see Chapters 6 and 9 of the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order a copy directly from the publisher or from Amazon today!

Photo credit: © alexskopje – Fotolia.com

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