Is getting hitched good for your heart?
Living in Holy Matrimony might come at the cost of some nagging, but could also save your life, as Marika Ottman found out from cardiologist Mamas Mamas from Keele University...
Marika - Want to cut your risk of cardiovascular disease? Getting married might be the answer.
80 percent of all cases of cardiovascular disease can be attributed to identified risk factors such as age, sex, and smoking. But what about the other 20 percent? A team at Keele University has identified marital status as a possible risk factor that could explain that remaining 20 percent.
I spoke with cardiologist Mamas Mamas to learn how getting married is good for the heart in more ways than one…
Mamas - Often in my clinical practice I have patients that come in and see me and they say to me the only reason that we’ve come in and seen you is because our wife told us to or our husband told us to. Which made me think that maybe marital status of a patient can give us additional information. That’s why I decided to look at the relationship between marital status and future cardiovascular health in these patients.
Marika - Worldwide there are many cases of cardiovascular disease and with that there have many studies conducted to determine their causes...
Mamas - What we did was a meta analysis. What that means is we looked at all of the studies that have looked at the question of whether marital status is associated with cardiovascular disease, and then combined the results from these 34 different studies from all over the world, conducted in two million patients, to get our findings.
Marika - After assessing over two million patient cases, Mamas and his team discovered results that were rather shocking…
Mamas - If you are unmarried you have a 40 percent increase in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, or dying from coronary heart disease or stroke. We also looked at outcomes in patients or individuals with established cardiovascular disease. So, for example, patients that are admitted with a heart attack or admitted with a stroke and we find that, again, marital status is associated with much better outcomes in the married compared to the unmarried patients. Particularly patients or individuals that are divorced seem to have a much higher risk than their married counterparts.
Marika - Why are unmarried people more likely to develop cardiovascular disease? Perhaps the answer lies in the vow “in sickness and in health.”
Mamas - I work as a cardiologist and often, even today in my clinic, patients will always say, you know, I developed these symptoms. I didn’t think anything of them but my wife or my husband really pressurised me to seek medical attention. I think also there’s lots of spousal pressure to adopt a healthy lifestyle, so often men in particular after heart attacks who were smokers will get a lot of pressure from their wives to give up smoking.
Marika - So maybe nagging is a good thing?
Mamas - Yeah, perhaps. I think there’s also other straightforward things like if you have a stroke, for example, you have great difficulty in mobilising sometimes, and so having a partner that can actually take you to your rehabilitation, to outpatient clinics, and so forth, will really help in your recovery. Whereas single people may not have this social network to be able to support them through this. And we know that adherence to medications, i.e. whether your take your medications is much greater in married patients compared to unmarried or divorced patients.
Marika - But let’s say someone isn’t married but they’re living with a roommate?
Mamas - I think social relationships are really important. Part of the question is how close is that relationship with your roommate? I think that will impact on the health benefits. Certainly, any form of relationship would probably be better than isolation. We know that social isolation is associated with worse outcomes for a number of different conditions in medicine.