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Marriage Keeps Blood Pressure Down

      A new study suggests marital happiness can help keep blood pressure down and prevent premature aging of the arteries.

      Researchers led by Dr. Brian Baker of The Toronto Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, studied the effects of cohesive relationships on blood pressure in 134 men and 71 women who had not taken medication for hypertension. Each study participant had a significant other they lived with and had held the same job continuously for a minimum of six months prior to the study. The men and women wore blood pressure monitoring devices that measured their blood pressure every 15 minutes throughout the day and hourly from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

      Researchers evaluated the effects of five relationship aspects on blood pressure: conversation, engaging in outside interests together, laughing together, having calm discussions and working together on a project. According to the study, there was a consistent 6 millimeters per mercury increase in blood pressure in 14 of the men and women who showed low participation in these five activities.

      High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. "The study suggests that as part of the medical examination, physicians should ask their patients about marital harmony and spousal relationships," says Dr. Michael Weber, editor of the American Journal of Hypertension. This study appears in the March issue of American Journal of Hypertension.

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