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The Surprising Link Between Marriage and Heart Health

The Surprising Link Between Marriage and Heart Health
From TIME - October 9, 2017

People in marriages that steadily get sweeter have lower cholesterol and healthier weight than marriages that stay the same, according to a new 16-year study. But both were preferable to marriages that got worse: couples in them were more likely to develop high blood pressure later in life.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, isnt the first to suggest a link between marital quality and heart health. But most research has only looked at relationship satisfaction at one point in time, which makes it tough to determine whether marriage really has a protective effect on health, or if healthier people simply tend to be in happier marriages.

The new research measured marital ups and downs over the years to see if they went along with changes in heart health. To do so, researchers analyzed data from a long-running study of parents and children in Britain, in which fathers were surveyed about their marriage quality when their children were about 3, and again at about age 9.

More than 2,000 people completed the survey once at the start of the study and again six years later, and 620 completed a follow-up analysis about a decade after the study's start. At that time, the men had their blood pressure, resting heart rate, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol and fasting glucose levels measured, all of which indicate heart-disease risk factors.

Interestingly, there was very little difference in cardiovascular risk profiles between men who had consistently good relationships and those who had consistently bad ones during the study. But after adjusting for several influencing factors, including age, education, height and household income, the researchers noticed small but distinct patterns for men whose marriages had either improved or deteriorated during that time.

Men who said their marriage got better over the years had lower LDLor badcholesterol and healthier weights (about 1 BMI unit less) at the end of the study, compared to those whose relationship satisfaction was consistently good for those years.

Meanwhile, those whose relationships got worse ended up with blood pressure an average of 2.74 points higher than those with consistently good marriages.

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