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Ask the BayCare Clinic Specialist: Love can be good for your heart

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Question: Is it true that being in love can be good for your heart?

Answer: If Cupid has his arrow trained on you, make yourself an easy target because being in love does appear to benefit your heart, research suggests.

As social beings, our biology drives us to seek meaningful relationships. When we can’t find those unions, we tend to experience increased stress (a common denominator in many heart conditions). People in happy relationships experience less stress, which in turn improves their cardiovascular health. Furthermore, people who aren’t in stable, committed relationships have an increased rate of heart attacks, particularly those who have been widowed.

In one study, researchers discovered that a happy marriage plays a role in the likelihood of chest pains. They discovered that married men who felt loved by their wives experienced 50 percent less angina (severe pain in the chest), despite having high risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Those strong bonds benefit women, too. A University of Pittsburgh study found that women in happy marriages have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those in high-stress ones, suggesting that love really is good for the heart.

Still need to be convinced?

A 2004 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that mortality rates were lowest in married couples. The study suggested that people experience less stress when they’re in committed, healthy relationships – and less stress means better health. Plus, it’s been shown that when men marry, many of them shed some of their risky behavior – like heavy drinking and smoking – which leads to longevity.

Experts say falling in love and staying in love offers other heart-healthy benefits such as:

  • Lower blood pressure: A happy marriage is good for your blood pressure, according to a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Researchers found happily married people had the best blood pressure, followed by singles. Unhappily married participants fared the worst.
  • Fewer colds: We’ve seen that loving relationships can reduce stress, anxiety and depression – a fact that may give the immune system a boost. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who exhibit positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses. The study compared people who were happy and calm with those who appeared anxious, hostile or depressed.
  • Faster healing: The power of a positive relationship may make flesh wounds heal faster. Researchers at The Ohio State University Medical Center gave married couples blister wounds. The wounds healed nearly twice as fast in spouses who interacted warmly compared with those who demonstrated hostility toward one another.
    Love doesn’t have to come from a romantic partner. Love includes that which you get from family, friends and co-workers. Healthy relationships are what really create longstanding health and happiness.

Try to show your significant other (or that new romance) a little more love. It just might do your body – and your loved one’s – some good.

Published: Friday, February 14, 2020