By Elizabeth Magill
One of the best things you can do for your heart may be to get hitched — or at least live with your significant other. Married people and people cohabiting have a lower risk of having a heart attack, a large study from Finland finds.
Researchers found that married and cohabiting couples, particularly middle-aged ones, have “considerably better prognosis” of surviving a heart attack both before and after reaching the hospital. The study was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
The Finnish researchers found that the prevalence of cardiac events was up to 65 percent higher in unmarried women and up to 66 percent higher in unmarried men than their married counterparts.
“In previous studies, the results in women have been less consistent and some studies have indicated that the differences in mortality according to marital status are more pronounced among men,” said lead researcher Dr. Aino Lammintausta. “In our study, marriage seemed to protect women even more than men from out-of-hospital acute coronary event death.
Researchers found that unmarried women and men had a higher likelihood of dying within 28 days of a cardiac incident. Specifically, single women were found to have a 71 to 175 percent higher mortality rate than married women after a cardiac event; single men had a 60 to 168 percent higher rate than married men.
Cohabitation was also found to decrease cardiovascular mortality in 35 to 64-year olds when compared to living alone.
The study analyzed 10 years of data from a Finnish health data repository. It included 15,330 cardiac incidents in people aged 35 and older covering the years 1993 to 2002.
While the reasons for the differing mortality rates aren’t proven, the study authors suggest that people who are married may have better outcomes because of earlier medical intervention or because a spouse or partner phoned for medical assistance.
“It may be assumed that resuscitation or calling for help was initiated faster and more often among those married or cohabiting,” they said.
Other possible factors are that married people have better health habits, have the support of each other, and may be wealthier than single individuals.
With gentle reminders from their spouse, married people may also be more likely to follow a doctor’s orders in taking medications, such as cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins), medicines for diabetes, beta blockers for reducing high blood pressure, and aspirin.
That said, the authors didn’t rule out the possibility that people in poor health may have a greater likelihood of being single or divorced.
“We cannot exclude the possibility that persons with poor health status may be more prone to staying unmarried or getting divorced,” the authors state.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each year, approximately 600,000 people lose their life to heart disease and 935,000 suffer a heart attack, reports the CDC.