By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

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Marital bliss is good for your health.

That’s the conclusion of a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association that showed people in a stable marriage and never divorced or widowed had the best prospects of surviving after a stroke.

“Our research is the first to show that current and past marital experiences can have significant consequences for one’s prognosis after a stroke,” said Matthew E. Dupre, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine and the Duke Clinical Research Institute at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

“We hope that a greater recognition and understanding of these associations may enable healthcare providers to better identify and treat patients who may be at a potentially high risk of dying after suffering a stroke.”

While studies have shown that social support, such as marriage, can have a significant impact on treatment of cardiovascular disease, the influence of marital status on stroke survival in adults remains poorly understood.

After studying 2,351 adults 41 years and older in the Health and Retirement Study who reported a stroke between 1992 and 2010, researchers found:

  • The risk of dying after a stroke was 71 percent greater for adults who never married than for adults who were continuously married.
  • People divorced or widowed had a 23 percent and 25 percent greater risk of dying after stroke, respectively.
  • Those who were divorced or widowed more than once had a 39 percent and 40 percent greater risk of dying after stroke, respectively.
  • There was no significance difference between men and women or by race or ethnicity.

Some of the risks are affected by differences in psychological and social factors, such as lack of children, limited social support and depressive symptoms, that may have impeded recovery after a stroke, researchers said.

Multiple marital losses in one’s lifetime were especially detrimental to recovery, regardless of current marital status. Researchers also found that remarriage didn’t reduce the risks from past divorce or widowhood.

“More research is needed to know the full clinical implications of our findings,” Dupre said. “Greater knowledge about the risks associated with marital life and marital loss may be useful for personalizing care and improving outcomes for those who are recovering from a stroke.”

Stroke, the No. 5 killer and one of the leading causes of disability in the United States, affects nearly 800,000 adults each year.