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Study finds vast majority of couples share risk factors for heart disease

Photo: kali9/iStockphoto

Boston — Add cardiovascular health risks to the list of items shared within a marriage or domestic partnership, researchers say.

A team led by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital examined the heart disease risk factors and lifestyles of nearly 5,400 couples enrolled in an employee wellness program offered between October 2014 and December 2018. Categories included smoking status, body mass index, exercise, diet, total cholesterol, blood pressure and fasting glucose.

The researchers found that 79% of the couples fell into a non-ideal category for cardiovascular health, exhibiting shared characteristics such as unhealthy diets and insufficient physical activity.


“We know a lot about cardiovascular risk factors for individuals but not for couples,” Samia Mora, corresponding study author and cardiovascular medicine specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in a press release. “We expected to see some shared risk factors, but it was a surprise to see that the vast majority of couples were in a non-ideal category for overall cardiovascular health.”

Additionally, only 12% of the participants were classified in an ideal category for cardiovascular health. Male participants ranged in age from 41 to 57, while the women ranged from 39 to 55.

The results, the researchers conclude, “may help inform public health initiatives that focus on couples-targeted lifestyle modification and may help improve the probability of successful implementation of programs that would benefit both members of a couple.”

The study was published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open.

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