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Happy marriage may cut risk of heart disease

Teresa Tanoos's picture
People in happy marriages may have lower risk of CVD

If you want to have a healthy heart, having a healthy marriage or similarly close relationship may help. At least that's what a team of University of Pittsburgh researchers report in a new study, which adds to an increasing body of evidence that having positive social relationships is associated with better health.

The research team, including study author Thomas Kamarck, who is a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, launched the study in an effort to confirm whether the quality of marriages and other similarly intimate relationships had any impact on one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

After analyzing 282 healthy and middle-aged couples who were either married or living together in a marital-like relationship, the team found that those who had positive interactions with their mates had a lower incidence of CVD. Indeed, those who experienced more negative interactions in their relationship actually had an 8.5 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease than their happy couple counterparts.

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For the study, the researchers monitored the couples each hour for a period of 4 days. The participants’ also self-monitored their interactions, rating them as either positive or negative.

In addition, the researchers measured the thickness of the participants’ carotid arteries, which provide oxygenated blood to the neck where they’re located and to the head as well. Thickening of these arteries can result in atherosclerosis, causing them to narrow as fatty plaques accumulate and build up on the interior walls, which raises the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

As the team reported recently in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, the participants who experienced more negative relations with their partner had thicker carotid arteries that boosted their risk of CVD by 8.5 percent, compared to their counterparts who experienced more positive interactions with their mate.

SOURCE: Daily Marital Interaction Quality and Carotid Artery Intima-Medial Thickness in Healthy Middle-Aged Adults, doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000071, Nataria Joseph et al., published in Psychosomatic Medicine, June 2014.