Medical Monday: How Falling/Staying in Love...

Posted at 7:06 PM, Feb 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-08 20:06:54-05
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. How can being in love help our heart health? Dr. Lynn Wagner, with BayCare Clinic joined us on “Wisconsin Tonight” to talk about the impacts of love. 
Love doesn’t just make your heart go pitter-patter, it protects it, too. In one study, researchers discovered that a happy marriage plays a role in the likelihood of chest pains. They discovered that married men who felt loved by their wives experienced 50 percent less angina, despite having high risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Those strong bonds benefit women, too. A study from the University of Pittsburgh found that women in happy marriages have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those in high-stress ones, proving love really is good for your heart.
So for a healthy and long life, strive for long-term love?
Well, in a nutshell, yes. Human beings are social animals who have biological drives that make them want to find relationships. When they can’t find those unions, they experience increased stress. People in happy relationships experience less stress, which in turn improves their cardiovascular health. Furthermore, people who aren’t in stable, committed relationships have an increased rate of heart attacks, particularly those who have been widowed. Here’s the bottom line: love and touch decrease stress levels, less stress means a better immune system and improved mental health, a better immune system means (all things remaining equal) you’ll experience less chances of experiencing chronic diseases like heart disease.
How about some extra proof for those cynics out there?
There’s a long history of research that has looked at the health benefits of marriage. According to a 2004 study by the CDC, mortality rates were found to be the lowest in married couples. Generally speaking, people experience less stress when they’re in committed, healthy relationships – and less stress means better health. Plus, it has been shown that when men marry many of them shed some of their risky behavior – like heavy drinking and smoking – which leads to longevity. There truly are benefits to both the emotional relationship of love and the physical touch that comes with love:
* Love triggers the hormone oxytocin. This leads to lower levels of stress chemicals in our bodies.
* People with strong relationships recover more quickly from illnesses.
* Less depression and mood disorders.
What about fresh, new love; any benefits there?
There is scientific evidence of romance’s blissful effects on the brain. A study from Rutgers University found participants, when they looked at photos of people they deeply love, had an increase of dopamine brain activity, which is associated with optimism, energy and a sense of well-being. The dopamine rush that comes from being in love gives you tremendous energy and optimism.
What other benefits come with falling in love and remaining in love?
* Lower blood pressure
o A happy marriage is good for your blood pressure. That’s the conclusion of a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Researchers found happily married people had the best blood pressure, followed by singles. Unhappily married participants fared the worst.
* Fewer colds
o We’ve seen that loving relationships can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression – a fact that may give the immune system a boost. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who exhibit positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses. The study compared people who were happy and calm with those who appeared anxious, hostile, or depressed.
* Faster healing
o The power of a positive relationship may make flesh wounds heal faster. Researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center gave married couples blister wounds. The wounds healed nearly twice as fast in spouses who interacted warmly compared with those who demonstrated a lot of hostility toward each other.
Love doesn’t have to come from a romantic partner, love includes that which you get from family, friends and co-workers. Healthy relationships are what really create longstanding health and happiness.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, show your significant other (or that new romance) a little more love. It just might do your body some good.
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