Strained Marriages Hurt Women's Hearts

According to new research, women in bad marriages are more likely to have high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease. Interestingly, unhappy husbands did not show physiological damage to their health.

University of Utah researchers asked 276 couples who had been married for 20 years to answer questions about their relationship and studied their health, reports Reuters. The women with strained marriages were more prone to depression and metabolic syndrome, which includes the symptoms of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, thick waist, and abnormal blood sugar. Medical researchers still debate whether these factors should be grouped together as a single syndrome, but, as Live Science explains, researchers chose to study them because there is no question that these symptoms are linked to heart disease.

Scientists found that, although men in marriages with a high level of conflict may be depressed, they do not show increased symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Doctors expected that stress in relationships would translate into mental and physical problems for both sexes, and were surprised by the results because heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. Researchers said they need to learn more about the connection between heart health and emotional distress, but that for now it makes more sense for women to focus on traditional factors known to influence heart health. "There is good evidence they [women] should modify some of the things that affect metabolic syndrome – like diet and exercise," said Professor Tim Smith, who co-lead the research, "but it's a little premature to say they would lower their risk of heart disease if they improved the tone and quality of their marriages – or dumped their husbands."

[Image via eHow.]

A Strained Marriage Can Hurt The Heart [Reuters]
Bad Marriages Strain Women's Hearts, But Not Men's [Live Science]