Relationships are the key to survival on planet earth. Every one of us knows and understands that happy relationships can make for happy living. But how many of us know that the continuous tension of a distressed intimate relationship can raise blood pressure, continuously over a 24 hour period? According to a new study by researchers in Canada, when intimate relationships become strained, there may be long-term effects on heart health.
The study which was conducted over a three year period, followed 105 patients whose ages ranged from 20 to 65, who had mild high blood pressure(defined as repeated diastolic pressures above 90 mm Hg on three separate occasions between 6 weeks and 6 months). Ambulatory blood pressure over 24 hours and an echocardiogram of the heart was taken at the beginning and end of the study. The subjects were also required to fill in questionnaires that measured marital adjustment, marital satisfaction and marital distress. At the end of the study about one quarter of the people, profiled as suffering from marital distress, were found to have a 24 hour diastolic blood pressure about 6 mm Hg higher when they were with their spouses than when they were not. Those who were satisfied with their marriages, on the other hand, showed a reduction of 6 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure when they were with their partners. The echocardiogram at the end of the study also revealed a larger left ventricle of the heart in those with distressed marriages than those who were happily married.
Dr. Baker, cardiovascular psychiatrist adds that while it has long been established that an argument of any nature can result in increased blood pressure for as long as the confrontation lasts, this is the first study that has shown that people in unhappy relationships who have mild high blood pressure (hypertension) experience a sustained increase in blood pressure (continuously over a 24 hour period) when they are with their partners. Dr. Baker, who said that the study also indicated that people with mild hypertension who are in loving, supportive, relationships experience a decrease in blood pressure when they are with their partners, added that studies have to be conducted to see if visits to a marriage counselor or stress therapist can be effective in lowering blood pressure, for people with mild hypertension and a troubled relationship.