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Why a happy marriage may be good for your heart

A team of researchers have found that happy marriages and marital like relationships may help protect against heart disease, according to a new study published in the June 2014 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

Study author Thomas Kamarck, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, pointed out that there is a growing body of evidence showing how the quality of marriages can influence the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Accordingly, Kamark and researchers from the University of Pittburgh, PA, launched their own study to confirm if happy marriages cut the risk of cardiovascular disease.

For the study, the team analyzed 282 healthy middle-aged couples who were either married or living together in a marital-like relationship. Over a period of four days, the researchers monitored the couples each hour. Additionally, the participants’ self-monitored their interactions, rating them as either positive or negative.

The researchers also measured the thickness of the participants’ carotid arteries. The carotid arteries, located in the neck, supply oxygenated blood to the head and neck – and when they thicken, they can lead to atherosclerosis, which causes a narrowing of the arteries and a build-up of fatty plaques on the interior walls. When this happens, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease is increased.

The results of the study found that those who had positive interactions with their mates had a lower incidence of CVD, compared with those who had negative interactions in their relationship, which increased their risk of cardiovascular disease by 8.5 percent.