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Saying “I Do” is Medically Good for the Heart

“Where there is love there is life”-Mahatma Gandhi

Saying “I Do” is Medically Good for the Heartwedding

Heartache and love are two powerful happenings; either can make you stronger, or weak at the knees, soften or harden the soul. Today, researchers prove marriage is good for the heart.

A study found married people are less likely than singles, divorced or widowed folks to suffer any type of heart or blood vessel problem.

“It might be that if someone is married, they have a spouse who encourages them to take better care of themselves,” said Dr. Jeffrey Berger, a preventive cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

But “we can’t prove by any means cause and effect,” he said.

This is the largest look at marriage and heart health, said Dr. Carlos Alviar, a cardiology fellow who led the study with Berger. Previous studies mostly compared married to single people and lacked information on divorced and widowed ones. Or they just looked at heart attacks, whereas this one included a full range from clogged arteries and abdominal aneurysms to stroke risks and circulation problems in the legs.

Researchers used health questionnaires people filled out as they sought various types of tests in community settings around the country from an Ohio company, Life Line Screening Inc.

The study authors have no financial ties to the company and are not endorsing this type of screening, Berger said. Life Line gave its data to the Society of Vascular Surgery and New York University to help promote research.

Researchers studied the results from people who sought screening from 2003 to 2008.  Their average age was 64; nearly 2-thirds female and 80 percent were white.  Personal information collected included: smoking, diabetes, family history, obesity and exercise.

The study Uncovered:

—Married people had a 5 percent lower risk of any cardiovascular disease compared to single people. Widowed people had a 3 percent greater risk of it and divorced people, a 5 percent greater risk, compared to married folks.

—Marriage seemed to do the most good for those under age 50; they had a 12 percent lower risk of heart-related disease than single people their age.

—Smoking, a major heart risk, was highest among divorced people and lowest in widowed ones. Obesity was most common in those single and divorced. Widowed people had the highest rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and inadequate exercise.

Not included in the study was how long participants were married or how recently they were divorced or became widowed. But the results drive home the message that a person’s heart risks can’t be judged by physical measures alone — social factors and stress also matter, said Dr. Vera Bittner, a cardiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

She heads the heart disease prevention committee of the American College of Cardiology. The study results were released on Friday ahead of presentation this weekend at the group’s annual meeting in Washington.

“We don’t really have a clear explanation” for why marriage may be protective, Bittner said.

“You may be more willing to follow up with medical appointments,” take recommended drugs, diet and exercise if you have a spouse, she said.

Facts contributed to this article by the Associated Press.

About Destaney Peters