Loyola University Chicago

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing


Loyola School of Nursing and Hines VA to Recruit Women Veterans at Risk for Heart Disease for Mindfulness Study

Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing (MNSON) researchers and Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital are recruiting women veterans at risk for heart disease for a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) study. MBSR is a form of complementary medicine that combines yoga and meditation.

Women veterans between the ages of 18 and 70, who have at least two risk factors for heart disease, are eligible to enroll in the study. Risk factors include high cholesterol,
high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, smoking, and a family history of heart disease or stroke.
“Women veterans are a rapidly growing population with unique health needs,” said Karen Saban, PhD, RN, APRN, CNRN, FAHA, associate professor, MNSON and health science
researcher at the Hines VA. “Women who enroll in this study will help us study alternative methods to improve the health and quality of life of those who have served.”

The eight-week study will determine the extent to which training in MBSR improves psychological well-being, decreases inflammation, and reduces heart disease risk. Researchers also will evaluate protective measures and risk factors, such as prior life adversity, social support and health behaviors that may alter the positive effects of MBSR.

“This is the first study that will look at mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques in women veterans at risk for heart disease,” said Fran Weaver, PhD, director, Center
for Management of Complex Chronic Care, Hines VA. “Given that heart disease is a major cause of death, this research also may have broader implications for the general

Evidence demonstrates that chronic stress doubles the risk of a heart attack and contributes to inflammation linked to artery disease and stroke. Veterans who have experienced
combat are at greater risk for stress and heart disease as a result. While previous research has focused on males, statistics reveal that a startling number (81 percent – 92 percent) of women veterans report experiencing at least one traumatic event, which contributes to stress. Women veterans also have significant rates of prior life adversity such as sexual assault and physical violence.

Using MBSR to reduce stress and develop coping strategies may improve psychological well-being and reduce heart disease risk in women veterans. Mindfulness techniques also
have been found to reduce symptoms of depression and improve quality of life in veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. People who use MBSR gain awareness about the relationship among their thoughts, emotions and reactions, which can change conditioned patterns of emotional responses. 

This study is funded through a $1.1 million four-year grant from the VA Nursing Research Initiative