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Married couples are likely to share the same risk for cardiovascular disease, study finds

Researchers say shared lifestyles between couples put them at similar risks

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Photo (c) KatarzynaBialasiewicz - Getty Images
While recent studies have found the ways that sleeping patterns and diet choices can increase consumers’ risk of developing cardiovascular disease, a new study is exploring how spouses can also play a role in each other’s health outcomes. 

According to researchers from the University of Tsukuba, married couples are likely to struggle with many of the same health concerns, including cardiovascular disease. Their work found that when husbands are undergoing treatment for risk factors related to cardiovascular disease, wives are likely to require treatment for those same conditions. 

“Married couples share food preferences and meal patterns, lifestyle with regard to levels of activity, attitudes to physical exercise, and usage of cigarettes and alcohol,” said researcher Takehiro Sugiyama. “Concordant disease patterns within couples may refer to risks of chronic diseases that could be reduced by changing daily habits, rather than unmodifiable genetic risks.” 

Sharing risk factors

To better understand the shared risks married couples can face when it comes to cardiovascular disease, the researchers analyzed over 86,000 couples’ responses to the Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions. All of the couples were over the age of 40, and they reported on several factors, including their health status, long-term health care, and overall family structure. 

The researchers were primarily concerned with three health measures related to cardiovascular disease: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. They accounted for several outside factors -- such as age, access to health care, and alcohol and smoking habits, among several others -- in order to get the clearest possible picture of how spouses can affect each other’s health. 

The study revealed that when husbands were receiving treatment for any of the above conditions, their wives were equally as likely to be receiving treatment for the same condition. Because these health conditions are often linked with day-to-day lifestyle choices, it’s clear that spouses can have a direct impact on one another’s long-term health. 

Factoring in spouses to health care decisions

The researchers hope that these findings prompt more in-depth conversations between consumers and their health care providers since knowing the details about a patient’s spouse can give key insights into potential risk factors. 

“Our findings stress that healthcare professionals should target not only patients’ blood-relatives, but also their spouses,” said researcher Nanako Tamiya. “Medical information should include the partner’s data. In addition to optimizing individual therapy, family-based interventions are needed. Couples too need to appreciate their influence on each other’s health patterns.” 

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