Monday, April 11, 2005

Marriage and Your Heart

"I thought this was about rowing boats when I saw the headline..." That's the note that a friend of mine included when he e-mailed a BBC item with this headline: "Marital Rowing Good for Wives." In the UK, of course, there's the kind of rowing that calls for a paddle and a boat, and then there's the kind of rowing that simply calls for two or more people to have a heated disagreement. And I suppose that those disagreements sometimes involve a paddle if the flare up occurs in a rowboat. Hopefully you don't experience many arguments that result in someone swinging a paddle in anger, but according to a recent study presented at the Second International Conference on Women, Heart Disease and Stroke, women who are willing to speak their minds in disagreements with their husbands tend to have healthier hearts. (So mine must be among the healthiest there is.) Researchers examined 10 years of health records for more than 3,600 male and female subjects who took part in the Framingham Offspring Study. Researchers report that female subjects who were "self-silencing" when conflicts arose were four times more likely to die from all causes compared to women who felt comfortable standing their ground and "rowing." Elaine Eaker, the lead researcher for the study, told HealthDayNews that when women self-silence they may activate hormones that take their toll on health over time. Men in the study who self-silenced didn't experience health problems that the self-silencing women did. But men married to women who were stressed at home due to pressures at work had a significantly higher risk of heart disease. Another study reported by the same research team last spring, showed that men who have sudden flare ups of extreme anger have a higher risk of stroke. Ms. Eaker noted that doctors should ask patients about their stress levels and be alert for signs of chronic marital tension.

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