BARCELONA, Spain – While the thought of a spouse suffering a heart attack is a terrifying prospect, partners of those at-risk may find some solace knowing their very existence seems to help aid in survival.
According to a recent report presented at the ongoing European Society of Cardiology conference, marriage is a “vital factor” in the survival of certain heart attack victims. The research out of Aston Medical School in Birmingham, England, used algorithms and a large database to study nearly a million patients hospitalized in England between 2000 and 2013.
“Marriage, and having a spouse at home, is likely to offer emotional and physical support on a number of levels ranging from encouraging patients to live healthier lifestyles, helping them to cope with the condition and helping them to comply to their medical treatments,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Paul Carter in a news release. “Our findings suggest that marriage is one way that patients can receive support to successfully control their risk factors for heart disease, and ultimately survive with them.”
While this connection has been made before, the research represents one of the largest studies ever done on the topic. It also adds new information about the ability of marriage to benefit those that have not yet suffered a heart attack, but are at risk.
“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,” says paper co-author Dr. Rahul Potluri. “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.”
Potluri notes a big takeaway from the study is that doctors need to consider the total picture surrounding their patients, not just their symptoms. For example, the researchers said there is plentiful evidence that stressful life events, such as divorce, can contribute to lower survival rates.
“Heart attacks are devastating events. It’s important that patients receive the necessary support to cope with them whether it’s from a spouse, friends, family or anyone they choose to involve in their care,” says Potluri. “Doctors need to treat patients in a holistic manner and encourage this as well as the use of support groups and rehabilitation courses.”
The report comes among other major findings currently being presented at the ESC conference including recommendations that fat-intake guidelines be revised. That study showed high carbohydrate diets being more closely linked to high mortality, while high fat diets were associated with lower mortality.
Yet another groundbreaking study presented at the conference seems to prove the link between anti-inflammatory drugs and decreased risk of heart attack. Another warned that heart attacks are more likely to occur when it’s cold out.
Presented alongside these and many other cardiology studies at this week’s conference, the research on marriage and cardiovascular disease was published in the European Heart Journal.