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You are here : 3-RX.com > Home > Heart -

Happy marriage may do a woman’s heart good

HeartMay 19, 05

Wedded bliss may provide women some protection against Heart disease and Stroke, new study findings suggest.

The study, which followed 413 middle-aged women over a dozen years, found that those who were happy in their marriages were less likely than their dissatisfied peers to develop metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of disorders—  high blood pressure, excess abdominal fat, abnormal cholesterol levels and elevated blood sugar—that raises the risk of Diabetes, Heart disease and Stroke.

Some research has suggested that psychological stress can contribute to metabolic syndrome, and the authors of the new study theorized that a happy marriage—perhaps by acting as a “buffer” against stress—might be related to a reduced risk.

In support of their theory, women who were deemed “maritally dissatisfied” based on a standard questionnaire were three times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome during the study period than women who were content in their marriages. The risk was also higher among women who were divorced or widowed.

Single women, on the other hand, showed no significant difference from happily married women.

The elevated risks remained when the researchers controlled for other factors, such as age, race, education, smoking and exercise. And no psychological factor—namely, depression, anxiety or a woman’s feelings of support from family and friends—explained the connection between marriage quality and metabolic syndrome.

The findings appear in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

A number of studies have found that married men are at lower risk of cardiovascular disease than bachelors, but the evidence for such benefits in women has been less consistent. In addition, simply being married is not necessarily a health boon, as research has linked spousal discord to poorer health.

The new findings suggest that marital harmony and disharmony may indeed matter in a woman’s cardiovascular health.

It’s not fully clear why marital satisfaction would play a role in metabolic syndrome.

Wendy M. Troxel, a predoctoral fellow in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, told Reuters Health that it’s possible that chronic stress caused by an unhappy marriage could spur elevations in blood pressure, as well as changes in stress hormones that could affect cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, May 9, 2005.

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