Being married may be good for your blood pressure.
Marriage benefit number one can be yours….
In a new study published in The Journal of Hypertension, researchers at Harvard Medical School looked at 325 adults who were followed over two years as part of a randomized controlled trial. The subjects, about half of whom were married, were assigned to follow strict diets and wear devices that monitored their blood pressure throughout the day.
Blood pressure levels generally follow a daily pattern, rising throughout the day and then falling at night. A nightly dip of at least 10 percent in systolic pressure — the top number in a blood pressure reading — is considered normal, said Dr. Finnian R. McCausland, a study author, whereas lack of such a dip is associated with cardiovascular problems and higher mortality.
People who were married — especially men – were much more likely to exhibit this “nocturnal dipping” than those who were not married, the researchers found, even after taking into account factors like socioeconomic status, age, diet and body mass index.
The researchers speculate that marriage might provide a level of social support that leads people to better manage their health and stress levels. Or, they wrote, “being married may simply be a marker for those with better overall health status, nutritional status and psychiatric wellness.”
- What about long-term unmarried couples? Is it the legality of marriage that makes the difference, or (just) living with someone who is seriously committed to your ongoing happiness and health?
- What about diet? Stress and/or arguing in marriage raises blood pressure, but could also go down at night because the couples is getting to rest. There are many factors that need to be considered.
- Women’s blood pressure could rise more with a marriage due to all her new responsibilities: cooking, cleaning, caring for the kids. What about a study just between men and just women?
- Positive social interaction it seems should correlate with measurements of good health including blood pressure. But, it may be the result of an intervening variable: people who get or are married may have good blood pressure levels and are more likely to be married.
- Do married women have fewer strokes, heart attacks and instances of cancer?
- What about many women who get much thinner and healthier after their husbands died? Perhaps they stopped cooking for the whole family. Perhaps the marriage bug is more independent a variable that the numbers suggest.
- A version of this article appears in print on 02/25/2014, on page D4 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Patterns: ‘I Do’ Good for Blood Pressure.