Matters of the Heart, and the Heart Matters

Thoughts by Carole L. Banka, Ph.D.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day when most are focused on heart-shaped boxes bearing candy, comes an intriguing report about “love” and the heart. In a study published last week in Psychological Science, researchers report that it is not the overall quality of a marriage that predicts heart disease, it is, instead, the perceived support each partner receives from the other in times of stress.


Couples who had been married for an average of 36 years were assessed as to their perception of support from their partners and their degree of coronary artery calcification (CAC) a documented marker of heart disease.   In 30% of the couples, both partners reported ambivalent support;  that is, sometimes positive and sometimes negative.  Those “ambivalent” couples were found to have significantly greater CAC than the other 70% of couples.  When the data was normalized for other cardiovascular risk factors such as age, gender, lipid levels and smoking, the results did not change.

Although this is a single study done at a single point in time, it suggests that we should all focus more on lending positive support to those we love than on the once-a-year caloric expressions of our devotion.
Remember that February is “Heart” month. In recognition of heart disease in women, wear your red dresses and your red dress pins proudly (for you men, a red tie will do).

…and speaking of stress, don’t forget to register for the next event in our “Intentional Happiness” series: “An Integrative Approach to Stress Management: Reducing Stress & Increasing Happiness” to be held on March 18th with speakers Tahir Bhatti, M.D. and Carole Banka, Ph.D.


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