Broken Hearts: How Your Relationship Affects Your Heart Health
When you and your partner or significant other are happy together, your stress level plummets, and your heart thanks you for it. Conversely, a toxic relationship puts considerable stress and unhappiness on a couple, and their hearts can show the strain, experts say.
"Ideally, having a loving relationship is good for overall wellness and it helps a person to be heart-healthy," says Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Being involved in a solid relationship is good for your heart. There truly is an emotional connection between the heart, the mind, and your health."
Individuals in happy marriages tend to be healthier than singles and those in rocky marriages, Steinbaum points out. They have lower rates of heart disease than those who are single as well as married individuals who are unhappy with the relationship. "People who are happy and single actually do better than those who go through a divorce," Steinbaum says.
Not being in a relationship can increase the risk of developing heart problems, according to one study published in the Health Psychology Journal and reported on WSAZ. And a second study from the UCLA reported that chronically lonely adults are at an increased risk for developing, among other conditions, cardiovascular disease.
An individual's emotional state definitely affects health, Steinbaum says. Stress, hostility, anger and depression—all feelings that can overwhelm a person in a rocky relationship—are linked with heart disease, she explains.
If your relationship is where you want it to be, it's not just your heart that's healthier, says Stephen Green, associate chairman of the department of cardiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York. "Everything's better," he says. "There are many reasons why this could be the case. For one thing, if you are in a negative relationship your blood pressure tends to be higher. And you tend to not be taking care of yourself as much as those individuals in a close relationship."
Hypertension and a high-fat, high-sodium diet may increase health risks, including the risk for cardiovascular disease, Green says. Men who are not in a stable relationship tend to not eat right and not consume enough fruits and vegetables, he notes.
"Sometimes you just need a significant other to tell you to do the right thing," he says. "We all need someone to help us out." If your relationship's not where you want it to be, you owe it to your heart to make every effort to make it work.
Chapman, Melanie. "True Love Story: Relationships and Hearth Health." 14 February 2011. WSAZ News Channel 3.
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