Pharmacists' Heart Risks Worsening Despite Health Expertise

Despite having adequate knowledge on cardiovascular risk factors, pharmacists and other health care professionals showed significant increases in systemic arterial hypertension and excessive weight gain across a 20-year study.

Despite having adequate knowledge on cardiovascular risk factors, pharmacists and other health care professionals showed significant increases in systemic arterial hypertension (SAH) and excessive weight gain across a 20-year study.

To track changes in the prevalence of such risk factors among different health care professionals, researchers supplied questionnaires to 281 students of pharmacy, medicine, nursing, nutrition, and odontology at the beginning of their degree courses in 1993, and then administered the same survey 2 decades later in 2013.

“We wanted to find out if a formal education in a health care area would represent a protection over the evolution of some cardiovascular risk factors,” corresponding study author Thiago de Souza Veiga Jardim, MD, PhD, told Pharmacy Times in an email.

The surveys focused on the occurrence of major cardiovascular events, such as acute myocardial infarction, stroke, or the need for myocardial revascularization, as well as whether the respondents were smokers or drinkers, or sedentary or active. The subjects were also asked about a history of early cardiovascular disease in the first-degree family.

Compared with baseline measures, pharmacists showed the greatest reduction in sedentarism, which the researchers attributed to an inverse relationship between level of schooling and prolonged inactivity. Nevertheless, the authors observed increases in SAH and excessive weight gain in the pharmacy population.

“Despite the increase in physical activity, there was an increase of the other risk factors analyzed, probably due to our study population aging,” Dr. de Souza Veiga Jardim told Pharmacy Times. “[Pharmacists should] always recommend healthy lifestyle even in younger patients, because those who we found with unhealthy habits in the first part of the study were more likely to keep those unhealthy habits throughout life.”

Physicians, dentists, and nurses showed comparable increases in the same cardiovascular risk factors as pharmacists, while nutritionists demonstrated a statistically significant increase in dyslipidemia. There was greater prevalence of excessive alcohol consumption behaviors in the nursing population, though smoking rates remained low across all health care professionals throughout the study period.

“Despite some differences that were favorable to the health professionals, university training in health-related subjects did not correspond to an effective reduction in cardiovascular risk factors,” the authors concluded. “…In general, there was an increase in the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors assessed in the population studied, despite the individuals' technical knowledge of these risk factors.”