25 March 2008

Marital bliss helps blood pressure

Marriage really can be a matter of the heart with a US study finding that happily married couples have lower blood pressure than single people.

Marriage really can be a matter of the heart with a US study finding that happily married couples have lower blood pressure than single people.

Professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad, of Brigham Young University, found that men and women in happy marriages scored four points lower on 24-hour blood pressure than single adults with a good group of supportive friends or relatives.

Holt-Lunstad and her colleagues were surprised to find that having a network of supportive friends did not translate into improved blood pressure for singles or unhappily married people.

"There seem to be some unique health benefits from marriage," said Holt-Lunstad, whose findings will be published in the Annals of Behavioural Medicine.

"It's not just being married that benefits health - what's really the most protective of health is having a happy marriage."

The study of 204 married and 99 single adults, who wore portable blood pressure monitors for 24 hours, found that unhappily married adults have higher blood pressure than both happily married and single adults.

The study involved recording blood pressure levels about 72 times over the 24 hours, even when participants slept.

Researchers founds that blood pressure for married adults - especially those happily married - dipped more during sleep than happens with singles.

Spouses promote healthy habits
"Research has shown that people whose blood pressure remains high throughout the night are at much greater risk of cardiovascular problems than people whose blood pressure dips," Holt-Lunstad said in a statement.

She said the results could partly be explained by the fact that spouses can promote healthy habits, such as encouraging each other to see a doctor and to eat healthily, and also give each other emotional support in good and bad times.

Holt-Lunstad said her next step was to study couples participating in marriage counselling to see if improvement in the marriage translates into improved health. – (Reuters Health)

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March 2008


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Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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