cardiovascular health

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Til Stress Do Us Part: Marriage Angst Can Be Hard On Your Heart

(Neil Moralee/Flickr)

(Neil Moralee/Flickr)

By Alvin Tran
Guest Contributor

Marriage is hard even in the best of circumstances. But new research suggests that if things are particularly hard, the stress can take a toll on your heart — especially if you’re older and female.

In a study published this week in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, researchers found that older couples in bad marriages have a higher risk for heart disease compared to those in good marriages. This link between the quality of a marriage and the risk of heart-related problems, such as high blood pressure, is even more pronounced among female spouses.

“The strain and stress from the marital relationship has a strong negative effect on people’s heart,” said Hui Liu, an associate professor of sociology at Michigan State University and the study’s lead author. “If the marriage is very stressful, it’s really hard on your heart.”

Liu, along with co-author Linda Waite of the University of Chicago, analyzed data from an ongoing nationally representative project that followed nearly 1,200 older men and women, ages 57 to 85, for a period of five years.

After comparing participants at the beginning of the study to the end of the five-year follow-up period, they found a significant link between an increase in negative marital quality with higher risk of hypertension among women. Not-so-hot marriages were marked by less spousal support and with husbands and wives spending less time with each other.

“The effect of marriage quality on cardiovascular risk is stronger for women than for men. It also becomes stronger as people get older,” Liu said during an interview. “We think marriage is one of the social factors that may affect the risk of cardiovascular disease.” Continue reading

Cardiac Reassurance For Marathon Runners

A new study brings reassuring news about marathoners and heart attacks. In the public mind, they may be linked like…like…rock stars and drug abuse, say, or boxers and brain damage. But research just out in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that marathoners face heart risks no higher than participants in other vigorous sports.

The lead researcher is Dr. Aaron Baggish, who’s in the video above and in the past has kindly shared with CommonHealth his wisdom on cool-downs  and on “hands-only” CPR.

From the NPR report:

Running long-distance races isn’t going to hurt your heart any more than other vigorous sports, researchers say. Just make sure you’re fit enough to attempt the feat in the first place.

The average age of runners whose hearts stopped beating was 42. Most were men.

In the past decade, nearly 11 million runners participated in long-distance races, but only 59 suffered cardiac arrests, according to findings just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Most of the cases happened to be in runners with undiagnosed, pre-existing heart problems.

“Certainly doing the run didn’t cause the heart conditions,” study author Dr. Aaron Baggish tells Shots, “but it was probably the stimulus that caused the near-fatal or fatal event.” Continue reading