November 11, 1994
Media Contact:Gary Stephenson
Phone: (410) 955-5384
E-mail: Gstephen@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

Women who have had coronary artery bypass surgery often do not modify dangerous health habits, such as smoking and eating fatty foods, which could lead to additional heart disease, say researchers at The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

While patients may not change certain behaviors on their own, the study shows that frequent follow-up--in this case by nurses--is effective in helping bypass patients reduce cardiac risk factors.

"People tend to think they have a new heart after bypass surgery," says Jerilyn Allen, Sc.D., R.N., principal investigator and associate professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. "But risk factors in bypass patients are often inadequately managed. It's difficult for people to change their behavior, but if they do not, blood vessels may close and further treatment may be necessary."

The Hopkins study looked at risk-factor profiles of 136 women six months after bypass surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Findings indicated that, after surgery, 60 percent of the women continued to have high blood pressure and 85 percent still had high cholesterol levels.

A follow-up study of 93 women indicated that a health program coordinated by nurses helped decrease some cardiac risk factors of women who had bypass surgery. The women who participated in an educational program managed by nurses were three times more likely to decrease their intake of fat-based calories than women who did not participate in the program.

"Studying cardiovascular disease in women is critical because it is the number one killer of women as well as men," says Allen. "Women are more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer."

Allen also suggests that all health-care professionals educate bypass patients about the need to reduce risk factors.

The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health.

-- JHMI --
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