Stress in marriage may make heart attack recovery tougher

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, where an estimated 605,000 first-time heart attacks and 200,000 recurrent attacks occur each year.

In a study from Yale University, scientists found marital stress – especially if it’s severe – may make it harder for younger adults to regain good physical and mental health following a heart attack, increasing the likelihood of chest pain and hospital readmission.

The findings support that stress experienced in one’s everyday life, such as marital stress, may impact young adults’ recovery after a heart attack.

Previous studies have shown psychological and social stress can damage a person’s ability to recover from heart disease.

However, other studies have linked being married or having a life partner to better health and heart disease prognosis.

In the study, the team examined how the state of that relationship affected a person’s ability to recover from a heart attack.

Participants included 1,593 adults 18 to 55 who were treated for heart attacks from 2008-2012 at 103 hospitals across the U.S. All participants were married or in a committed partnership at the time of their heart attack.

Participants self-reported their level of marital stress one month following their heart attack using a 17-item questionnaire called the Stockholm Marital Stress Scale.

They were then classified into one of three stress-level groups: absent/mild, moderate, or severe.

The team found more women than men reported having severe marital stress. For every 10 women in the study, four reported severe stress levels, compared with 3 in 10 men.

One year following their heart attacks, participants who reported moderate or severe marital stress were 67% more likely to report chest pain, and nearly 50% more likely to be readmitted to the hospital for any reason than their peers who reported mild or no marital stress.

Those with severe stress levels scored lower in physical health and mental health. Participants reporting severe marital stress also scored lower in quality of life.

This study highlights the importance of evaluating the mental health of cardiac patients and is consistent with previous studies that show a greater burden of marital stress on the health of women.

A comprehensive approach to the care of cardiac patients that includes physical and mental health may transform the care of cardiac patients from the care of one organ to a patient’s global health.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, and flu and COVID vaccines may increase heart disease risk.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies that artificial sweeteners in food are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, and results showing who has the lowest heart disease and stroke risks.

The study was conducted by Cenjing Zhu et al and presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions.

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