Marriage Can Be Healthy For Your Heart
March 29, 2014

Researchers Find Being Married Is Good For The Heart

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Apparently marriage is good for your heart in more ways than one, as new research presented Saturday at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) suggests that men and women lucky enough to have found wedded bliss are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than their divorced, single or widowed counterparts.

According to The Telegraph, lead investigator Dr. Carlos L. Alviar and his colleagues studied over 3.5 million people and found that married people were five percent less likely than nonmarried people to have peripheral artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm and coronary artery disease (the four major types of heart disease).

The impact on peripheral arterial disease, which affects blood supply to the legs, was especially noteworthy. It was 19 percent lower, said Emma Innes of the Daily Mail. Married men and women were nine percent less likely to suffer from cerebrovascular disease, which disrupts blood flow to the brain and can result in a stroke, and eight percent less to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which can cause the body's main blood vessel ruptures, she added.

After adjusting for age, gender, race and other cardiovascular risk factors, the study authors discovered that marital status was independently associated with the risk factor for all for primary types of heart disease. The findings were consistent among both male and female patients, and especially in patients under the age of 50.

“These findings certainly shouldn't drive people to get married, but it's important to know that decisions regarding who one is with, why, and why not may have important implications for vascular health,” said Dr. Alviar, a cardiology fellow at the New York University Langone Medical Center. “We are able to take a better look at a spectrum of relationships.”

“Our survey results clearly show that when it comes to cardiovascular disease, marital status does indeed matter,” added senior study investigator and NYU Langone cardiologist Dr. Jeffrey Berger. “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.”

Dr. Alviar, Dr. Berger and their associates analyzed database records from over 3.5 million people nationwide. They obtained each patient’s demographic information and cardiovascular risk factors, then estimated the odds of disease by marital status after looking at the presence of vascular disease in various blood vessel locations, including the coronary arteries, leg arteries, carotids and the abdominal aorta.

The authors reported that traditional cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, smoking and obesity were similar to the overall US population. The ages of the study participants ranged from 21 to 102 years old. The average age was 64, and 63 percent of those studied were female. More than 69 percent were married, while 13 percent were widowed, 8.3 percent were single and 9 percent were divorced.

According to the Associated Press (AP), different risk factors varied by relationship status. Smoking was highest among divorced men and women and lowest among those who were widowed. Single and divorced people were the most likely to be obese, while widows and widowers had the highest rates of hypertension, diabetes and lack of exercise.

While Dr. Berger said that additional research is required to better understand the reasons why marital status impacts cardiovascular disease risk, he suggested that couples can provide both emotional and physical support to one another.

“Married people can look after each other, making sure their spouse eats healthy, exercises regularly, and takes medication as prescribed,” he explained. “A spouse can also help keep doctors' appointments and provide transportation, making for easier access to health care services.”