How marriage can protect you from heart disease and stroke

How marriage can protect you from heart disease and stroke

In a recent study, researchers find that marriage may protect against the development of heart disease/stroke as well as influencing who is more likely to die of it.

The researchers to suggest that marital status should be included as a risk factor for heart disease/stroke and likely survival in its own right.

Most (80%) cardiovascular disease can be attributed to well-known risk factors: age; sex; high blood pressure; high cholesterol; smoking; and diabetes.

But it’s not clear what influences the remaining 20%.

Previous research on the impact of marital status has been somewhat mixed.

To clarify the issues, the authors of this study trawled research databases for relevant published studies.

They drew on 34 out of a total of 225, all of which had been published between 1963 and 2015, and involved more than 2 million people aged between 42 and 77 from Europe, Scandinavia, North America, the Middle East, and Asia.

They found that compared with people who were married, those who weren’t (never married, divorced, widowed) were at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease (42%) and coronary artery heart disease (16%).

Not being married was also linked to a higher risk of dying from both coronary heart disease (42%) and stroke (55%).

Further analysis showed that divorce was associated with a 35% higher risk of developing heart disease for both men and women, while widowers of both sexes were 16% more likely to have a stroke.

While there was no difference in the risk of death following a stroke between the married and the unmarried, this was not the case after a heart attack, the risk of which was significantly higher (42%) among those who had never married.

The researchers caution that the methods used and adjustments made for potentially influential factors varied considerably across all the studies, which may have affected the results of their analysis.

Similarly, there was no information on same-sex partnerships or the quality of marriage, and the potential role of living with someone, as opposed to being married to them, was not explored.

This is the largest study to date, with the age and ethnicity of the participants strengthening the wider applicability of the findings, the authors point out.

And there are many reasons why marriage may be protective.

These include earlier recognition of, and response to, health problems; better adherence to medication; better financial security; enhanced wellbeing; and better friendship networks.

The study is published online in the journal Heart.

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