Married? That’s good news for your heart
In one of the largest surveys of its kind, researchers say being married can lead to healthier hearts.
A survey of more than 3.5 million Americans found that people who are married had a “significantly” less chance of getting heart disease than those who are single, divorced or widowed. That fact was true of both genders and regardless of age.
Questionnaires were given at more than 20,000 health care provider centers across the nation. The findings were presented at a recent meeting of the American College of Cardiology.
Research showed that married couples had a five percent lower risk of having cardiovascular disease than single people. Divorced and widowed people had a 3 and 5 percent higher risk, respectively, for a number of heart problems including peripheral and coronary heart disease.
“Our survey results clearly show that when it comes to cardiovascular disease, marital status does indeed matter,” said study leader, NYU Langone, cardiologist Jeffrey Berger, MD, MS, in a news release. “If one of my patients is recently widowed or divorced, I’m increasingly vigilant about examining that patient for signs of any type of cardiovascular disease and depression,” he said.
But researchers are exactly sure why being married can lead to healthier hearts. They suspect that being paired carries the benefit of mutual support and encouragement when it comes to staying healthy.
“Married people can look after each other, making sure their spouse eats healthy, exercises regularly, and takes medication as prescribed,” Berger said. “A spouse can also help keep doctors’ appointments and provide transportation, making for easier access to health care services.”
While it may be the largest survey on this topic, it’s not the first. A smaller study from Finland found that unmarried men and women were nearly 60 percent more likely to have a heart attack than their married counter parts.
Single people were also significantly more likely to die within a month after a heart attack compared to those who are married. The Finnish research team also believes there are distinct advantages to being a couple.
Dr. Charles Jaffe, a cardiologist with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., agrees.
“A spouse or significant other may be more likely to point out changes in symptoms, behaviors or unhealthy patterns that an individual may be more likely to dismiss on their own,” says Jaffe. “Family members talking to other family members about their health and well-being are a positive thing, especially if it gets patients to seek medical intervention earlier rather than later.”
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