Marriage is Good For The Heart

Marriage associated with decreased odds of cardiovascular disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Marital status can affect people's lives in very many ways. It can even affect a person's and a couple's physical health.

A recent study found that marriage was independently associated with lower odds of having heart disease compared to being single, widowed or divorced.

The researchers discovered that the odds became twice as low when considering people 50 years old and younger.

"Get checked for heart disease regularly."

The lead author of this study was Carlos L. Alviar, MD, from the Department of Cardiology at the New York University Langone Medical Center in New York, New York.

The study included 3,532,189 adults between the ages of 21 and 102 years old who participated in the self-referred Life Line Screening program between 2003 and 2008 and were assessed for cardiovascular disease (affects the heart and the blood vessels).

More than 20,000 screening sites across all 50 states of the country were used. The participants' average age was 64 years old and 63 percent of the participants were women.

The researchers used nationwide databases to obtain demographic data and to identify risk factors of heart disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking status and obesity.

In addition, the researchers identified the specific types of vascular (blood vessel-related) disease:

  • peripheral artery disease (arteries that supply the head, organs and limbs with blood become blocked)
  • cerebrovascular disease (blood vessels supplying the brain become blocked)
  • abdominal aortic aneurysm (large blood vessel that supplies blood to the stomach, pelvis and legs becomes abnormally large and balloons)
  • coronary artery disease (arteries that supply oxygen-filled blood to heart become blocked)

The findings showed that 69 percent of the participants were married, 13 percent were widowed, 8 percent were single and 9 percent were divorced.

The researchers determined that marital status was associated with cardiovascular disease, independent of age, sex, race and cardiovascular risk factors.

Married participants had 5 percent decreased odds of having any vascular disease, and 8 percent, 9 percent and 19 percent decreased odds of having abdominal aortic aneurysm, cerebrovascular disease and peripheral artery disease compared to single participants, respectively.

Compared to the widowed and divorced participants, married participants were less likely to have coronary artery disease — but the association was not significant when compared to single participants.

Widowed participants were 3 percent more likely to have any vascular disease, and 7 percent more likely to have coronary artery disease compared to the single participants.

The findings also revealed that divorced participants had 5 percent increased odds of having any vascular disease compared to those who were single.

Dr. Alviar and team discovered that the association between marriage and lower odds of vascular disease was stronger among the younger participants — something he said was not anticipated.

Lastly, the researchers found that marriage was associated with 12 percent decreased odds of any vascular disease when analysis was restricted to participants aged 50 years old and younger. This association dropped to 7 percent and 4 percent decreased odds when only participants aged 51 to 60 years old, and 61 and older were considered.

“These findings certainly shouldn’t drive people to get married, but it’s important to know that decisions regarding who one is with, why, and why not may have important implications for vascular health,” concluded Dr. Alviar.

The research team believes that future research is needed to better understand what aspects of marriage might be associated with improved vascular health, such as better access to heath insurance and health care, higher socioeconomic status and companionship. A long-term follow-up study could potentially help identify the associations between changes in disease patterns and changes in marital status over time.

There were a couple of limitations to the study.

First, the study population consisted of people who paid $100 for vascular screening and therefore may not be representative of the general American population. Second, there were a small proportion of racial and ethnic minorities in the participant group.

This study was presented on March 29 at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

Review Date: 
March 28, 2014
Last Updated:
March 29, 2014