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Getting Hitched May Mean A Healthier Heart

Update Date: Mar 28, 2014 04:36 PM EDT

Marriage keeps the heart healthy, according to a new study.

Researchers found that people who are married are less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases compared to people who are single, divorced or widowed.

The link between marriage and reduced risk of vascular disease is particularly strong before age 50. The findings revealed that married people aged 50 and younger were 12 percent less likely to suffer any vascular disease. However, the percent drops to 7 percent for married people between 51 and 60 and 4 percent for those older than 61.

"These findings certainly shouldn't drive people to get married, but it's important to know that decisions regarding who one is with, why, and why not may have important implications for vascular health," lead researcher Carlos L. Alviar M.D., cardiology fellow, New York University Langone Medical Center, said in a news release.

Researchers have long known that marriage protects the heart. However, the latest study, which involved health records of more than 3.5 million people nationwide who were evaluated for cardiovascular diseases was able to look at four different vascular diseases - peripheral artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm and coronary artery disease. Researchers were also able to distinguish between various types of marital status.

"We are able to take a better look at a spectrum of relationships," Alviar said.

After accounting for age, sex, race and other cardiovascular risk factors, Alviar and his team discovered an independent link between marital status and cardiovascular disease.

The study revealed that married people were 5 percent less likely to have any vascular disease compared with singles. Married people also had 8 percent, 9 percent and 19 percent lower odds of abdominal aortic aneurysm, cerebrovascular disease and peripheral arterial disease, respectively. While the risk of coronary disease in married people are lower, researchers noted that the reduced risk was not statistically significant.

While marriage can help protect the heart, losing it may actually hurt the heart even more. Researchers found that being divorced or widowed was associated with a greater likelihood of vascular disease compared with being single or married. Researchers found that widowers are 3 percent more likely to have any vascular disease and 7 percent more likely to suffer coronary artery disease. Researchers also found a higher risk of any vascular disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease in people who are divorced.

"The association between marriage and a lower likelihood of vascular disease is stronger among younger subjects, which we didn't anticipate," Alviar said.

"Of course, it's true that not all marriages are created equal, but we would expect the size of this study population to account for variations in good and bad marriages," Alviar said.

The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

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