The ONE organ responsible for high blood pressure.
Happy Marriage, Better Blood Pressure
"But It's Better to Be Single Than to Be Unhappily Married, Blood Pressure Study Shows"
A happy marriage may be a boon for blood pressure, a new study shows.
But an unhappy marriage? That's another story.
"Marriage must be of a high quality to be advantageous" for blood pressure, the study states. "In other words, one is better off single than unhappily married."
The study included 204 married people and 99 single men and women. Participants were 20-68 years old (average age: 31).
Most of the singles -- 89% -- had never been married; none was living with a partner. Married participants had been married for eight years, on average, note the researchers, who included Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, of Brigham Young University's psychology department.
Participants wore a blood pressure monitor that tracked their blood pressure around the clock for 24 hours. They also rated their marital satisfaction in a survey.
Happily married people had the best blood pressure. Singles ranked second. The unhappily married had the worst blood pressure of those three groups.
Having a healthy social network was a plus for singles' blood pressure. But it didn't equal the blood pressure advantage of being happily married.
Of course, other factors -- including diet, exercise, smoking, and stress -- also affect blood pressure. Those factors count for everyone, single or married, happy or not.
The study, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, paints the big picture about blood pressure and marriage. It's not meant to describe every single or married person's blood pressure, since there are exceptions to every rule.
Frequently Asked Questions:
When a wife is stressed, the study found, her husband's systolic blood pressure tended to go up. If both spouses thought the marriage wasn't going well, the husband's blood pressure spiked even more. The effect was different for wives: their blood-pressure readings were higher if the relationship was going badly.
The researchers found that happier marriages were related to better health outcomes, including fewer hospitalizations, fewer severe diseases and less physical pain.
“Many studies suggest that emotional stress is hard on your health—raising blood pressure and heart rate, for example,” says Johns Hopkins cardiologist Erin Michos, M.D. When the stress becomes chronic, so do these physical effects. Over time, that can lead to heart damage.
“Our sympathetic nervous system, or our stress “fight-or-flight” response likely plays a role as well.” Being in love tends to decrease our stress response, which can in turn lower blood pressure.
Sociologists, psychologists and epidemiologists have recently documented evidence of married people's better physical health, longevity, psychological health, and reported happiness. Married individuals fare better in these terms than the never married, who in turn do better than the divorced, separated and widowed.
The common premise is that excessive cardiovascular reactivity to marital stress is a risk factor for hypertension, rapid heart rate, and CVD. Exposure to marital stress causes the sympathetic nervous system to metabolize glucose and to induce the release of stress hormones (e.g., catecholamines, cortisol).