Your brain may be the main gate-keeper for the release of dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine – the three key feel-good secretions that spike up when one is in love. But eventually it is the heart that takes the load of marriage, a plethora of recent studies have found.

Good marriage keeps the heart healthy and impacts cardiovascular systems if it is bad. Heartburns in love have been cross-cultural conventional wisdom but now science has vindicated it beyond a shred of doubt.

American magazine Time in its recent publication has quoted a 2015 study carried out by the scientists at University of Michigan who studied 1300 couple for six years. Their findings were interesting. “When a wife is stressed, the study found, her husband’s systolic blood pressure tended to go up,” Time reported. “If both spouses thought the marriage was not going well, the husband’s blood pressure spiked even more.”

It impacted wives differently, the magazine says. If both the spouses felt the marriage was getting bad, wives reported increased BP. Interestingly, it dropped if their husbands’ had more BP than them!

Quoting a Brigam Young University research, Time reported that “ambivalent” marriages, in which spouses had significantly negative and some positive interactions at the same time, they were found to have more BP than those having “satisfying marriages”.

In yet another study, the magazine said, the spouse fighting quite often, were found to have developed thicker carotid arteries – the “hard-heartened” couples!

Spouses who undergo cardiac surgeries were also linked to their marital set-up. Quoting a University of Pennsylvania study, the magazine said that people undergoing heart surgery recover faster if married. In case of single and divorced who undergo the surgery, 40% either died or developed new disability within first two post-surgery years.

There are scores of such studies linking heart health with the marriage.

A University of Michigan study found wives in older couples running the risk of contracting cardiac diseases faster than men. Analyzing five years of married life in 1000 couples, the sociologist researchers Hui Liu and Linda Waite found that a bad marriage causes more harm to the heart than a good marriage offers positive benefits to cardiovascular health. “The risks increase the older you are,” the study says, “and the quality of the marriage has more of an effect on women – possibly because they tend to internalize unhappiness more.”

Marital issues take a higher toll on wives’ heart than their husbands’. With aging, their hearts respond to strain more negatively than in case of men.

Marriage is bliss, after all. A 2014 study involving 3.5 million American adults suggested married people had lower cardiovascular disease issues than those who are single, divorced or widowed. New York University’s Lagone Medical Center had carried out the study from 2003 through 2008 at more than 20,000 screening sites in all 50 American states.

Married people, according to the study, had 5% lower risk of any cardiovascular disease compared to single people. Widowed had 3% greater risk, and divorced 5% greater risk than married. Those numbers improved significantly for younger married couples, as those under age 50 had a 12-percent lower chance of heart disease than other young single people.

Smoking, according to study, a major cause of heart disease, was highest among divorced and lowest in widowed ones in America. Obesity was most common in those single and divorced, and widowed people suffered from the highest rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and inadequate exercise.

So if you are in an unhappy marriage, you must visit a cardiologist!
:KL