Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Marriage Does a Man’s Heart Good
A recent study suggests how marriage may save a man's life.
Can marriage save a man’s life? According to a recent Canadian study, it most certainly may. Dr. Clare Atzema and colleagues were interested in finding out whether married people were more likely than their single counterparts to get to the emergency room at the first sign of a heart attack. They also had a hunch that a majority of women might encourage their men to get help for their symptoms, but that the same would not necessarily hold true for men. Their study, published in the July edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, gives valuable insight into the way our relationships can powerfully affect our heart health.
We cardiologists want our patients who are suffering from heart attacks to get to the hospital as soon as possible, so that we have the best chance of opening up a blocked artery, restoring blood flow, and preventing or limiting permanent damage. The first six hours are critical, but if you can get there within two hours of the onset of chest pain, the chances of a full recovery are even better. That’s why the research team looked at the time from the onset of symptoms to the arrival in the ER.
4,403 heart attack patients from 96 Canadian hospitals were evaluated. About one third of the patients were women. The upshot? Being married meant that an individual was twice as likely as someone who was not married to get to the hospital within the six-hour window. When men and women were assessed separately, men came out far ahead. In fact, married men had only one third the likelihood of showing up to the ER too late, whereas marriage appeared to have no bearing on the time it took for a woman to get help.
What does this tell us? Most likely, women take their roles as nurturers and caregivers very seriously. When a married man experiences symptoms that are consistent with a heart attack, his wife will in all probability swing into action, call an ambulance, and insist that he get medical help. Men, on the other hand, are not traditionally expected or encouraged to take on this responsibility, and may not recognize when their wife is in trouble.
Does this mean men are self-centered or oblivious to their wives’ health? Of course not. Women are often raised to minimize their symptoms, and to suppress their own needs in favor of those of their families. Cardiovascular disease will kill more than one in three women, so it’s important that we all learn to recognize the signs of a heart attack, and to understand that delaying care can be life altering or even fatal.
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