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Posted: Tuesday, 01 April 2014 6:20AM

LSU cardiologist agrees: Marriage is good for your heart

Here's one more reason to tie the knot. Apparently, marriage is good for the heart.

A study just released by New York University's Langone Medical Center found married people have fewer heart problems than those who are single, widowed or divorced.

Dr. Frank Smart, Chief of Cardiology at LSU Health Sciences Center, says the size of the study, more than 3.5 million Americans, would seem to pretty conclusive.

"Married people have a lower incidence of heart attack risk and lower incidence of overall cardiovascular disease."

The study found that married folks are less likely to suffer heart or blood-vessel problems than their counterparts.

Researchers, however, aren't exactly sure why marriage seems to come with such an added benefit.

"The presumption is that married people share in helping to take care of each other and help to encourage your partner to attain certain health milestones," says Dr. Smart.

He says a partner can encourage healthy habits and may promote a more robust lifestyle. "A partner can encourage you to move more, watch what you eat, see a health professional on a regular basis, things like that."

Smart admits that men are usually not very good at looking after themselves, healthwise. "Clearly, men have a propensity to be less aggressive about taking medical advice until somewhat prodded by their wives."

"It's interesting, however, that both sexes benefited in the married group," Smart says. "So, regardless of sex, it wasn't just like the men were better off...the women were better off, as well."

The benefits were seen for both men and women, regardless of age and regardless of other heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol or diabetes.

Married people had a 5 percent lower risk of any cardiovascular disease compared with single people, a 3 percent lower risk compared with widowed people and a 5 percent lower risk compared with divorced people.

Smoking, a major risk to heart health, was highest among divorced people.

Might stress be a factor? "I personally think that that's a pretty significant role," he says. In a married relationship, you tend to be somewhat less stressed about things than either divorced or widowed people. I think that hare in some of those stresses with your spouse and you can allay some of the individual stress by sharing with your spouse."

So, would he go so far as to prescribe marriage for his patients? 

"No, but if you're married, stay that way."

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