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Mar 29, 2014

Marriage Linked to Lower Heart Risk

People who are married have fewer heart problems than those who are single, divorced or widowed, according to recent study.

People who are married have fewer heart problems than those who are single, divorced or widowed, according to a recent study of more than 3.5 million U.S. adults.

Recently presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session, this study used health records of men and women of all ages to compare marital status and cardiovascular health. Among the 3.5 million American adults who were part of this database, researchers identified subjects with heart disease or certain risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and obesity.

After considering marital status, researchers found that people who were married had significantly lower risk of heart diseases, especially before age 50. Among all participants, married people were 5% less likely to have any heart disease compared to single individuals. However, for people aged 50 and younger, marriage is associated with 12% lower odds of any heart disease.

Researchers also found that being widowed or divorced was associated with greater cardiovascular risk compared with being single or married. Widowers had 7% higher odds of heart disease and divorce was linked with a higher likelihood of multiple cardiovascular diseases.

Of course, “these findings certainly shouldn’t drive people to get married,” says Carlos L. Alviar MD, cardiology fellow at the New York University Langone Medical Center and lead investigator of this study.  “But it’s important to know that decisions regarding who one is with, why, and why not may have important implications for vascular health,” says Alviar. Alviar also adds that while not all marriages are created equal, this study was so large that it likely accounted for variations in both good and bad marriages.

Based on study findings, experts encourage future research on this topic. With more long-term follow up, study authors hope to identify exactly which aspects of marriage might promote better health, such as better access to health insurance or simply having lasting companionship. They also hope to find out how cardiovascular risk might change over time, especially as marital status changes for certain individuals.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How does relationship status reduce the risk of a heart attack?
  • Being married—or even having a roommate—improves the chances of getting medical help in the event of an emergency rather than living alone. More importantly, however, experts believe that having a partner could explain the association between marital status and cardiovascular risk. Spouses often advocate for each other's health and serve as good support systems for making healthier choices.
  • How can I reduce my risk for heart disease?
  • You can reduce your risk for heart disease by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a heart-healthy diet and staying physically active. Any additional risk factors, such as high blood pressurecholesterol and diabetes, should be properly addressed and controlled through lifestyle changes and working with your healthcare provider.

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