SCIENCE

Married Patients More Likely To Survive A Heart Attack Than Singles And Divorcees, Study Claims

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(Photo : Getty Images/Joe Raedle) Married patients are more likely to survive heart attacks, a new study claims.

A good support system may be the secret to a longer life.

A new study recently claimed that being married may increase a patient's odds of surviving an acute myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, Today reported.

The study, which was presented at the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) Conference in Manchester, U.K., also noted that people who have a spouse or wife are more likely to recover faster and have a shorter stay at the hospital following a heart attack.

According to study co-author and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital doctoral research fellow in cardiology Nicholas Gollop's findings, 25,000 out of nearly one million British men and women who were admitted to the hospital between January 2000 and March 2013 suffered from heart attacks.

Among the patients tracked by the study, the married ones were 14 percent more likely to survive the attack than those who were not in a relationship.

However, it turns out the singles did not have the worst odds as divorcees were 6 percent more likely to die within seven to eight following the heart attack compared to those who have never been married.

Dr. Rahul Potluri, who founded the Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of stay and Mortality (ACALM) Study Unit which performed the research, noted that certain psychosocial factors commonly found in divorcees may worsen the effects of heart attack and that social support may be a contributing factor to the likelihood of surviving one.

"We hypothesize that psychosocial factors associated with divorce, such as depression, anxiety and stress, increase the risk of dying after a heart attack," he said.

Of course, this doesn't mean one needs to tie the knot in order to recover from a heart attack. Potluri and Gollop emphasized that their findings meant a support system is essential during the recovery process, whether it be in the form of friends or a support group.

"What we're saying is that single and divorced patients should have appropriate support networks after going home from the hospital that could replace the sort of support you can benefit from in a marriage," Potluri continued.

"Our results should not be a cause for concern for single people who have had a heart attack," said Gollop in a British Heart Foundation news release obtained by Philly. "But they should certainly be a reminder to the medical community of the importance of considering the support a heart attack survivor will get once they're discharged.

Dr. Joon Lee, a cardiologist and director of the Heart and Vascular Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, explained that having a spouse by one's side during the early stages of a heart attack could save one's life.

"Most deaths occur before people even reach a hospital or emergency medical services. People often don't recognize the symptoms and worry that they will turn out to have indigestion and be embarrassed. This is where a spouse can motivate the patient to present earlier rather than waiting several hours — that can be the difference between life and death," said the doctor, who is not affiliated with the research.

One thing that the study could not determine was whether being married will affect male and female heart attack patients differently.

"Most of us understand that married men do better after a major cardiovascular event. And the effect isn't just on heart attacks, it also extends to cardiac surgery," Lee said.

However, Lee added, "there is some evidence to suggest that there are benefits to women if the marriage is supportive."

Lee concluded that modern medicine needs to take into account the importance of relationships when it comes to treatment and recovery.

"We don't make distinctions," he said. "This is something in medicine that we need to think about. It's a real phenomenon."

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