Research backs early studies showing couples more likely to live longer than singles
Being married appears to be good for your heart, a massive new study says. Man-led men and women had lower rates of heart disease than those who were widowed, divorced or single, with fewer conditions like hardening of the arteries or blood clots, a study found.
The research, which analyzed medical records of 3.5 million Americans evaluated for heart disease, was presented Friday in Washington at the American College of Cardiology meeting.
While reasons behind the marriage findings are unclear, it supports previous studies that show couples tend to be healthier and live longer than singles.
While those married had a lower chance of developing blood clots, experts say people should not rush to the altar to reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease
The study reinforces the idea that heart health can be affected by social as well as physiological factors, said Vera Bittner, chairwoman of ACC's Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Committee.
"We cannot estimate cardiovascular risks purely based on metabolic abnormalities that we can measure but psychosocial variables could also be very important," said Bittner, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, on a conference call with reporters.
The study is the largest of its kind, said Carlos Alviar, a cardiology fellow at New York University's Langone Medical Center and the study's lead author.
The findings don't mean people should rush out and tie the knot to reduce their heart disease risk, Bittner said.
The studies only show an association. Still, doctors need to make sure they know patients' marital status and whether they have support when ill, she said in an email.
"We are not advising people to get married as a way to prevent cardiovascular disease," said Alviar.
"When it comes to cardiovascular disease, marital status does indeed matter and it is important for clinicians to take this into account when they are examining patients."
Having a spouse may help promote a more robust lifestyle and ease access to medical care, researchers said.
In the study, 69 per cent were married, 13 per cent were widowed, 8.3 per cent were single and 9 per cent were divorced.
They found that those who were married had a 5-per-cent lower risk of vascular disease, which can include conditions like hardening of the arteries or blood clots, than singles and a19 per cent reduced chance of peripheral artery disease, in which plaque builds up in the body's arteries.
The greatest benefit was seen in married people who were ages 50 and younger.
Both widowed and divorced men and women had higher rates of heart disease, the study showed. Widowers and widows combined had a 3-per¬cent increased risk of vascular dis¬ease and a 7-per-cent higher chance of coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease and the leading cause of death in the US.