Marry to live a healthier life

First of all, I would like to thank whatever anonymous person started sending me Prevention Magazine. I have no idea WHY I am now receiving this magazine, or why anyone thought of me when considering this publication...but now you, my readers, will reap the benefits.

I've found a couple interesting articles lately:

#1: New research shows how marriage affects your health in the long run

(July 4, 2006) -- Married folks have longer, healthier lives than singles, research finds--and a new British report sheds light on why. Men cut down on fat, salt, and sugar when they move in with a partner.

Getting hitched is good for women, too--eventually. "At first, women eat more unhealthy foods and put on weight," says lead researcher Amelia Lake, RD, of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne's Human Nutrition Research Centre, who reviewed 15 studies on couples. Women gain 3 pounds on average within 3 months of saying "I do"--and 19 pounds by their 10th anniversary.

But as the years go by, couples tend to adopt each other's better habits. A University of Pittsburgh study of 3,075 men and women ages 70 to 79 finds that married couples are more active than solos, and highly active men are three times more likely to have a vigorous wife.

#2: The heart benefits from a great relationship

Give your honey a big kiss. New research shows that love guards against heart disease, women's number one killer.

The catch: Only women in happy twosomes get this better-than-a-pill protection, says San Diego State University psychologist Linda C. Gallo, PhD, who tracked the health and happiness of 493 women for 13 years. Using blood tests, Gallo found that women with the luck, skill, or emotional fortitude to have created highly satisfying marriages were simply in better health.

They exercised more, smoked less, and felt less frazzled. As a result, their cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body weight--the big heart attack risk factors--were lower. They also felt less depressed, anxious, and stressed.

Top happy-marriage factors: time together, communication, good sex, and financial compatibility, plus shared lifestyle, personality type, and interests.

"It's clearly worth nurturing your marriage--in ways that make you feel happy--for the sake of your own health," Gallo says.

#3: Why a strong relationship equals a strong heart

As wiser men than I have observed, it's never possible to truly know the nature of another person's marriage--but as a cardiologist, that doesn't stop me from trying. Don't get me wrong. I'm not interested in gathering titillating details or conducting a field study on the laws of attraction. My radar is sensitive to the status of my patients' relationships for one reason: Marriage affects your risk of having a heart attack.

For many of us, that influence is positive. We now have a lot of evidence that intimate relationships (and to a lesser degree, friendships) buffer you against heart disease. On the whole, long-term statistics show that married people live longer than singles, suggesting that it's always better to tie the knot than to go it alone.

But is it? Some recent research showed that the marital effect is more complicated than that. (When it comes to marriage, is anything uncomplicated?) A recent study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that a troubled relationship is worse for you than remaining single. Spouses who reported a lot of negative encounters with their partner had blood pressure that was on average 5 points higher than that of single people. The emotional stress of a difficult marriage typically causes adrenaline levels in the blood to spike, raising blood pressure; it can also cause blood vessels to spasm. Worse, women who keep their feelings to themselves during arguments with their husband have a four times greater risk of dying than women who do not, according to findings reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

So obviously, the quality of your marriage is a key factor in determining whether your heart will benefit from it.

In my practice, I can get a pretty good idea about how a couple is getting along if they come in together. Sometimes a little squabbling is a good sign. Typically, the wife has urged her husband, who'd rather be at work or playing golf, to make an appointment. I'll ask him if he's eating right, exercising, no longer smoking. He'll say yes, while behind him, his wife will be shaking her head no. Although they appear to be in conflict, I don't worry about them: They obviously care about each other or they wouldn't be here.

Other patients simply confide in me, or my staff, that their marriage is going poorly. I advise them to spend more time exercising, which is the best anxiety reducer I know. But the most important thing I tell them is that they should seek more social support--concentrate on seeing more of their friends and kids so they acquire the heart-protective benefits of good relationships outside their marriage.

The lesson for you? When you bolster your marriage, you invest in your heart health. And if your relationship hits an extended rough patch, tell your doctors. They may not be much good at marriage counseling, but they will help prevent your heart from breaking, literally, even more.

Arthur Agatston, MD, a preventive cardiologist and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, conducted several groundbreaking studies on heart disease and is the author of The South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health for Life. He maintains a cardiology practice and research foundation in Miami Beach, FL.


So, basically, being single can be detrimental to your health. Maybe the NCMO doesn't sound like such a bad idea now...


konigsmark said...

I wasn't sure about marriage, but now I'm sold. Thanks Yeti

john said...

Yeah, more NCMO is the answer! Why didn't that magazine cover that?!!
You have such interesting posts!

douglas said...

get married but watch out for those kids - oh, and for those who are wondering, they come from one of those 'exercises' married people enjoy http://www.newsweek.com/id/143792?GT1=43002

sarah christoph said...

that's great. Eharmony can now add "healthier life" to their current "19 dimensions of compatibility"... making that a whopping 20 dimensions if both partners desire to live healthier lives... with these pillars of compatibility we are all sure to find our soul mates! HAAH! ;)