Can having a spouse help protect you from this disease?

Can having a spouse help protect you from this disease?

Giving your heart to another in marriage can be a lifesaver, though scientists aren’t sure exactly why. What they do know is that an analysis of 34 cardiac studies involving 2 million people in several countries suggests that marriage demonstrates an ability to extend the lives of those involved.

The review was published in the journal Heart. The studies, conducted from 1963 through 2015, showed that people who weren’t married had a 42 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 16 percent greater risk of developing coronary artery disease compared with married people. Ultimately, unmarried people were at higher risk of dying of heart disease sooner than their wedded counterparts.

We know what the figures show; we just don’t know why. It could be that having a marital partner provides extra observation that can help alert doctors to health changes. Health care professionals suspect that partner might have a supportive effect when it comes to making and keeping doctor appointments, taking medication or participating in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, which can improve outcomes after strokes or heart attacks.

So rather than thinking of it as nagging, spouses should consider these persistent prods love nudges instead.

“Married people keep each other’s hearts healthier by encouraging them to maintain a healthier lifestyle, to see their doctor or to go to the emergency department promptly,” says Dr. Sunil Kadakia, and Advocate Medical Group cardiologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill.

Another factor in the study’s findings could be how major stress from divorce adversely affects the heart. Divorced people were 35 percent more likely to develop heart disease than married people.

The authors also speculated on another practical factor: If both marital partners work, they may simply have access to better health care.

Taking greater precedence in the likelihood of developing heart disease, however, are factors such as genetics and underlying conditions or diseases such as blood pressure and diabetes, according to the analysis, with social networks or marital status accounting for just 20 percent of the influences.

To help them stay on the right track, Dr. Kadakia offers his patients these tips to help improve heart health regardless of their marital status:

  1. Improve your eating habits and maintain a body mass index below 25.
  2. Get more exercise.
  3. Sleep seven or eight hours each day.
  4. If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
  5. Do something you are good at to build your self-esteem.
  6. Recognize risk factors and correct them.

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About the Author

Kathleen Troher
Kathleen Troher

Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.