Research finds married patients more likely to survive heart attacks

Getting hitched could lower possibilities of developing cardiovascular problems for at-risk patients and improve survival of heart attacks, a London-based doctor concluded at the ESC Congress in August.

Lead researcher Paul Carter fronted a team that combed through a database of nearly one million patients hospitalized in England between 2000 and 2013 to track the survival rates of those at risk for heart complications in relation to those patients’ marital statuses. Of the 929,552 individuals pulled from the Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of Stay and Mortality (ACALM) database, Carter and his colleagues found 25,287 had suffered a previous heart attack, 168,431 had high blood pressure, 53,055 had high cholesterol and 68,098 had type 2 diabetes mellitus, according to the study.

Carter, who published his team’s findings in the European Heart Journal, found married patients were 14 percent more likely to survive heart attacks, 16 percent more likely to live through the entirety of the study with high cholesterol, 14 percent more likely to survive with diabetes and 10 percent more likely to live all 13 years with high blood pressure than single patients.

All patients in the study were categorized as either single, married, divorced, widowed or separated; marriage was the most common relationship, with single individuals and widowers coming in second and third. Carter said in an ESC release that heart disease is often directly linked with stressful situations like divorce or separation.

“The nature of a relationship is important and there is a lot of evidence that stress and stressful life events, such as divorce, are linked to heart disease,” he said. “With this in mind, we also found that divorced patients with high blood pressure or a previous heart attack had lower survival rates than married patients with the same condition.”

In his ESC Congress presentation, which was streamed online, Carter explained that while the best results were connected with married patients, even widowers saw consistently reduced mortality rates across the board when it came to heart attacks and the three most common risk factors that cause them. Divorced patients saw slight increases in mortality rates across all areas studied.

“Our main message, really, is that anyone out there, whether they’re married or single, uses the people around them, whether that’s friends, family or their spouse, to help them in controlling their risk factors and risk of heart disease,” he said at the conference. “Obviously, the happiness of the marriage is important, as well.”

According to the ESC release, Carter’s study differs from similar ones in that it’s a much larger-scale investigation and also explores whether marriage is a success factor when it comes to preventable cardiovascular risk factors, which cause up to 80 percent of heart attacks.

Rahul Potluri, the founder the ACALM Study Unit, noted in the release it’s important for heart disease patients to have a strong social support network at home.

“Our findings are even more relevant to patients with cardiovascular risk factors who are at particularly high risk in that they are silently living with conditions that increase their risk of a heart attack without experiencing any symptoms,” he said. “It’s important that patients with these dangerous, but preventable, risk factors follow the lifestyle and medication advice of their doctors to limit this risk, and social support networks are vital in doing so.”