MONDAY, Oct. 31, 2022 (HealthDay News) — A bad marriage can break your heart — literally.

A heart attack A new study reports that people who have survived a stressful relationship are more likely to recover.

“We found that there was an independent association between severe marital stress and worse outcomes during the first year after recovery,” said lead researcher Cengjing Zhu, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health.

Compared to people in a healthy relationship, heart patients are in serious condition marital stress Zhu and her colleagues found that patients were 67% more likely to have recurrent chest pain in the first year after recovery.

Severe marital stress also increased a person’s chances of re-hospitalization by almost 50% and affected quality of life and health.

On a 12-item scale, for example, participants with severe marital stress scored 2.6 points lower on mental health and more than 1.6 points lower on physical health compared to those who reported little to no stress.

Zhu is scheduled to present the findings Sunday at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Chicago.

The findings shed new light on the subtle effects of relationships on a person’s health, said Dr. Nieka Goldberg, medical director of Atria New York City and clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU Grossman School of Health.

“Previous studies of marriage have shown that people who have been in a relationship have better heart health than those who have not been in a relationship,” said Goldberg, who was not involved in the study. “But this study actually looks at relationship quality and the intense marital stress that occurs in couples.”

For the study, Zhu and her colleagues tracked nearly 1,600 American adults aged 18 to 55 who were treated for a heart attack between 2008 and 2012. These people were located all over the country and they were all married or in a partnership.

Participants completed a 17-item questionnaire designed to assess marital stress and were divided into three categories—mild or no stress, moderate stress, and severe stress. The researchers then followed them for a year to see how well they improved.

Women reported more marital stress than men. Nearly 4 in 10 women said they had experienced major marital stress, compared to 3 in 10 men.

Patients should “be aware that marital stress in their lives can affect their recovery,” Zhu said.

People whose relationship stress is affecting their recovery from a heart attack should seek counseling and get “necessary help to reduce stress, anxiety or depression,” Goldberg said.

The stress of a bad marriage can affect recovery in several ways, she said.

The stress caused by a bad relationship “certainly negatively affects cardiovascular risk factors, especially with increased blood pressure, making it very difficult for someone who is stressed or anxious to follow a treatment regimen or lifestyle program,” – said Goldberg. said.

The American Heart Association states that stress can disrupt a person’s energy levels and deprive them of the sleep they need to recover. Stress has also been linked to irregular pulse and rhythm, high blood pressure, digestive problems, inflammation and decrease in blood flow to the heart.

Disagreement with a partner can also deprive a heart attack patient of the support they need at this critical time in their lives, Goldberg added.

“If you’ve had a heart attack, you have to follow a medical regimen, maybe change the way you eat, quit smoking and change your life,” she said. “But it’s a difficult task if you’re not in a supportive environment.”

Doctors guiding a heart attack patient on the road to recovery should consider the patient’s mental and emotional health as much as their physical health, Zhu and Goldberg said.

“Our findings really highlight the importance of assessing daily stress because it’s not currently included in routine screening,” Zhu said.

Goldberg agreed.

“For clinicians, people who care for someone who has had a heart attack, it’s very important not only to address traditional risk factors, but also to be aware of the mental health component of heart care,” Goldberg said. “Heart attack recovery is not just something we can do medically. It really is time to understand that mental health is connected to our physical health.’

Results presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary to publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Additional information

The American Heart Association has more about stress and heart health.

SOURCES: Cenjing Zhu, MA, PhD, Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT; Nieka Goldberg, MD, medical director of Atria New York City and clinical adjunct professor of medicine at NYU Grossman School of Health, New York; American Heart Association, press release, October 31, 2022

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