Relationships especially one that's meant to be a lifelong commitment can affect one's health. In fact, several studies have shown a link between marriage or a committed relationship and heart health.
Researchers at Aston Medical School in Birmingham reported that married people are more likely to survive a heart attack compared to people who are single. According to the study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, married people also have a better survival rate when it comes to heart disease and heart attacks, thanks to to the mutual support system provided by spouses.
Dr. Paul Carter, lead study author and researcher at the Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of Stay and Mortality (ACALM) Study Unit, says marriage "is likely to offer emotional and physical support." These include "encouraging patients to live healthier lifestyles, helping them to cope with the condition, and helping them to comply with their medical treatments," he said in a press release.
A new study published in the journal American Psychologist takes it even further by suggesting the relationship can make or break your heart, literally. Study co-author Timothy Smith, also a professor of psychology at the University of Utah, told Time, that research suggests that "improving people’s management of chronic diseases like coronary heart disease can be made better or worse by how things are going in that relationship."
Smith, together with co-author Brian Baucom, also from the University of Utah, suggested the quality of marriage may boil down to the person's personalities. They suggest that people who are good at relationships are also more likely to take care of their health, deal with stress better, have a better perspective, and sleep well, the four major factors significantly affecting heart health.
Health and lifestyle changes are huge factors in improving heart health. It's easier to stop smoking, start exercising, and eliminate bad fat in your diet when you have a partner that supports that change, said Baucom and Smith. Your spouse, say, would be less likely to have fried food on the menu if they knew it's not good for you.
Coping with stress is also a factor in preventing a heart health scare. Spouses who are in happy relationships may have more motivation to get healthy. "Difficulties with close relationships and things like depression and hostility make it much harder to stop smoking or improve your exercise," says Smith.
Having a positive outlook may also play a role. People in happy relationships are more likely to remind their spouse of their medication. Interestingly, happily married people feel less nagged into drinking their medication on time or keeping up with their doctor appointments compared to individuals who are in a toxic marriage.
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Sleep is also a major factor in heart health, which is severely affected by the spouses' relationship. A recent study suggests the lack of sleep negatively affects a relationship. "Sleep disorders and insomnia are strongly predictive of heart health," said Smith. Individuals who are in happy relationships sleep better; they don't fight as much or stay up late thinking or worrying at night.
So can we say that one of the perks of marriage is heart attack prevention? That's a stretch, but it's easy to understand why a good relationship can have such an impact. We take care of us because we want to make sure we get to spend more time with our spouses and our kids.