Two-for-One-Effect: Couple’s Cardiovascular Health Aligns Over time
Wed, April 14, 2021

Two-for-One-Effect: Couple’s Cardiovascular Health Aligns Over time

In marriage, spouses often play the role of a friend, financial partner, co-parent, and an emotional support system to their significant other / Photo by: fizkes via Shutterstock

 

In marriage, spouses often play the role of a friend, financial partner, co-parent, and an emotional support system to their significant other. Previous studies have shown that the quality of marriage also correlates with the couple’s physical health. But did you also know that a couple’s cardiovascular health can overlap over time?

Heart Health and Marriage

A new study presented at the Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association has revealed that married partners have a similarity in their heart health. 

To come up with such findings, the researchers examined five years of blood test data and biometric measures from a total of 5,364 couples. They then charged how each spouse measured up against the modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These risk factors include smoking, diet, exercise, blood pressure, body mass index, fasting glucose, and total cholesterol.

In 76% of the couples, it was found that if one partner’s cardiovascular health was “less than ideal,” so was their partner's. More than 50% of the couples did not exercise enough and 92% failed to maintain a healthy diet. The researchers found one category (smoking) where the majority of the couples overlapped for good health. It was revealed that 88% of married couples with neither of the partners partaking in smoking. However, only 4% of couples had ideal heart health.

Medical testing company Quest Diagnostics’ senior scientific fellow Dov Shiffman, who is one of the investigators of the said study, explained that their findings could serve as a guide to raise public awareness for people to improve their heart health. He refers to it as the “two-for-one-effect,” which means that one partner influences the other partner, and their shared habits would have the same effect on their health. This is why earlier studies pointed out how people tend to look for partners with similar traits and values.

Shiffman added that people sharing one household would likewise be exposed to the same factors that affect their health. What’s new with their study is the accuracy and “sheer number” of that measurement. Their research utilized nationwide data from employees who took part in the wellness program conducted by Quest Diagnostics. The medical testing company operates in 50 different states so their results consider ethnic and geographic lines.

The University of California at San Francisco’s professor of medicine Dr. Michelle A. Albert, who was not a part of the recent study, shared that the findings are reflective of what happens in communities and families as well in terms of exercise and diet. For example, if one person smokes in a social group or in the house, it will also encourage other members to smoke. She added that diets can be influenced by the socioeconomic status of the community.

A new study presented at the Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association has revealed that married partners have a similarity in their heart health / Photo by: iko via Shutterstock

 

Couple’s Positive Influence

World report platform US News cited the story of couple Tom and Martta Kelly concerning the study about heart health. They have been married for 11 years and live in New Jersey. The two met at a running club and most of their weekends have involved racing even after they got married. Although they are competitive in the race, they train as a couple and work together “side by side.” Martta, 62, explains that she and her husband have shared interests aside from running. They make good choices in life, such as the foods they eat.

“Marriage Benefit” for the Heart

In 2016, a large study of hospital data also showed that marriage improves heart attack survival and reduces the patient’s hospital stay. The researchers studied more than 25,000 who suffered a heart attack for a certain period. Those patients who were married were 14% more likely to survive and leave the hospital a few days sooner than single patients. 

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental economic organization with 36 member countries founded to stimulate economic progress and world trade, shared in its family database that marriage rates have declined in the past few decades. This was also accompanied by the increase in the average age of people getting married but the mean age of both women and men at first marriage differs across countries.

The average age of marriage in Sweden, for instance, is 33.8 for women and 36.6 for men. In Turkey and Israel, the mean age of marriage is about 25 for women and less than 28 for men. Differences were attributed to the transition paths before long-term partnership formation. In Nordic countries, for instance, cohabitation is an important form of long term partnership, so this postpones marriage.

The crude marriage rate (marriages per 1,000 people) in the United States was 6.9 in 2017. The US Census Bureau also shares that the average age of first marriage for women in 2017 was 27.4 years and 29.5 years for men. Back in the '50s, the average age of marriage was only 20. In 1980, it was 22, and in 1990, it was only 24. Relationship therapist Brandy Engler, Ph.D. said that people’s beliefs have shifted from seeking a life partner to experimenting and exploring.

The crude marriage rate (marriages per 1,000 people) in the United States was 6.9 in 2017. The US Census Bureau also shares that the average age of first marriage for women in 2017 was 27.4 years and 29.5 years for men / Photo by: IVASHstudio via Shutterstock