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Alzheimer's caregivers at risk for disease

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COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jul 01, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- The stress of caring for an Alzheimer's patient at home can prematurely age the immune system of the caregivers.

This study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on the health of older caregivers, but the findings also might apply to some of the 20 million caregivers and family members of Alzheimer's patients.

The study suggests caregivers under the most stress run the risk of getting sick themselves with illnesses like heart disease or cancer.

"Caregivers are often called the second victims of Alzheimer's," the lead author of the study, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, of Ohio State University, told USA Today.

The researchers took blood samples from the recruits and measured the levels of a naturally produced immune chemical called interleukin-6.

Caregivers, who were about 70 at the time of the study, had IL-6 levels that looked like those of the average 90-year-old.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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