A stressful marriage can harm your heart health, research shows

A stressful marriage can harm your heart health, research shows

A stressful marriage can harm your heart health, research shows

There may be a link between trouble in marriage and a worse outcome after a heart attack for people younger than 55, according to a new study.

“Our findings support that stress experienced in everyday life, such as marital stress, can affect young adults’ recovery after a heart attack” said the study’s lead author, Cenjing Zhu, in a statement released Monday, Oct. 31, announcing the results.

Preliminary research will be presented at the 2022 American Heart Association Scientific Meetings, which will be held in person in Chicago, as well as virtually, November 5-7, 2022.

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Zhu is a Ph.D. candidate at Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut.

She added in the statement that “additional stressors besides marital stress, such as financial strain or stress at workmay also play a role in recovery in young adults, and the interaction between these factors warrants further investigation.”

A stressful marriage can harm your heart health, research shows

The study examined 1,593 young adults ages 18 to 55 who were treated for a heart attack at one of 103 hospitals in 30 states.
(iStock)

The study examined 1,593 young adults aged 18 to 55 who were treated for a heart attack at one of 103 hospitals located in 30 countries.

These adults were simultaneously enrolled in a study called “VIRGO,” or “Variations in Recovery: The Role of Gender in Outcomes in Young AMI Patients,” according to the release.

All persons in the study were either married or engaged “committed partnership” when they had a heart attack, the release found, and more than 66% of those in the study were women.

Marital stress was also associated with chest pain and readmission to the hospital within a year of the initial heart attack, the study found.

One month after the heart attack, the participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire called the “Stockholm Marital Stress Scale”, and were rated as “absent/mild”, “moderate” and “severe” levels of marital stress.

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The participants were then studied one year after the heart attack, according to the release.

Zhu and her co-authors found that people who had “high levels of stress” scored 1.6 points lower in physical health and 2.6 points lower in mental health on a 12-point scale from those with no/mild levels of stress.

Participants were rated as having "absent/mild," "moderately," and "hard" levels of marital stress.

Participants were rated as having “absent/mild”, “moderate” and “severe” marital stress.
(iStock)

“Participants who reported severe levels of stress [scored] almost 5 points lower in the overall quality of life and 8 points lower in the quality of life measured by a scale specially designed for heart patients,” the statement said.

Marital stress was also associated with chest pain and readmission to the hospital within a year of the initial heart attack, the study found.

Those with “severe” levels of stress were almost 50% more likely to be readmitted to hospital for any reason, compared to those without marital stress.

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Poorer health outcomes persisted even when participants’ gender, age, race and ethnicity were controlled for, according to the release.

Controlling for employment, education, income and health insurance status reduced the association, the statement said — but “the association remained statistically significant.”

"My wife's daily emotional and mental support has undoubtedly helped me stabilize my a-fib," said one man from the Boston area.

“My wife’s daily emotional and mental support has undoubtedly helped stabilize my fibrillation,” said one Boston-area man.
(iStock)

One Boston-area man in his late 70s who has recurrent atrial fibrillation said the Yale study made sense to him: He found that being happy and calm in his marriage had a positive effect on his heart health.

“I know I’m older than the patients in this study, but my wife’s daily emotional and mental support has undoubtedly helped me stabilize my a-fib,” he told Fox News Digital.

He added: “Love heals.”

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Zhu said that in the future, medical professionals “should consider screening patients for daily stress during check-ups to better identify people at high risk for poor physical/mental recovery or additional hospitalization.”

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“A holistic model of care built on clinical factors and psychosocial aspects can be helpful, especially for younger adults after a heart attack,” she said.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States: one person dies every 34 seconds from heart disease, according to the CDC.

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