Couples share a lot together, but heart disease wouldn’t be on any couples’ list. However, new research out of China shows that if your spouse has heart disease you’re likely at high risk for it, too.
Living together can often mean unhealthy habits are shared, explained the study’s lead author.
“We found that an individual’s cardiovascular disease risk is associated with the health status and lifestyle of their wife or husband,” said Chi Wang, research fellow at the Heart Health Research Center in Beijing.
Wang and colleagues believe that while the findings came from a study done in China, they probably would apply worldwide.
One U.S. expert agreed.
“The results of this study are not surprising, since we know that cardiovascular disease is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors,” said Dr. Michael Goyfman, who directs clinical cardiology at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, in New York City.
“We can assume that couples tend to share many environmental factors, including where they live, what they eat, etc. If one smokes, the other may be at least exposed to secondhand smoke,” he said.
In the new study, Wang’s group surveyed more than 5,000 heterosexual couples older than 45 living in seven regions of China from 2014 to 2016. They were asked about their health, lifestyle and heart disease risk factors.
People whose spouse had heart disease were more than twice as likely to also have heart disease, compared to those whose spouses didn’t have heart disease, the study found.
The association between a having a spouse with heart disease and a person’s own risk was especially strong in men. The study found that 28% of men whose wives had heart disease also had it, compared to 12.8% of men whose wives did not have heart disease.
A man’s risk of heart disease was highest if his wife had a history of stroke, obesity or smoking.
The prominent role that women play in a family’s diet could help explain the gender-based findings, the researchers said.
The risk of heart disease was 21% among women whose husbands had heart disease, compared with 9% among those whose husbands did not have heart disease. Heart disease risk was highest in women whose husbands had a history of stroke.
The study will be presented May 17 at the annual meeting — conducted virtually this year — of the American College of Cardiology (ACC).
“In addition to sharing lifestyle factors and socioeconomic environment, our study suggests the stress of caring for a spouse with cardiovascular disease may contribute to increased cardiovascular risk,” Wang said in an ACC news release. “Our finding indicates caregivers’ health should be monitored as well as that of their spouse in the community and primary care setting.”
For his part, Goyfman said that while sharing unhealthy habits might trigger heart disease in couples, the opposite is also true.
The new study “may encourage couples to engage in healthier behaviors together, including diet and exercise” to prevent or reverse heart disease, he said.
Because the findings were presented at a medical meeting, they should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
A Vitamin Could Be Key to Women’s Pain After Knee Replacement
Older women with low levels of vitamin D may have more pain after total knee replacement than those with adequate levels of the nutrient, a new study suggests.
Vitamin D is an important part of a healthy diet, and its benefits include protecting against bone disease and maintaining soft tissue health.
Estrogen deficiency, inactivity and a lack of sun exposure have been linked with vitamin D deficiency in perimenopausal women. During perimenopause, the ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen. Menopause, the end of a woman’s monthly period, follows within years.
In this study, the researchers assessed factors affecting pain after total knee replacement in postmenopausal women. The surgery is common and safe, but many women have pain afterward.
The study authors concluded that vitamin D deficiency, smoking and a high body mass index (BMI) are independent risk factors for moderate to severe pain after the surgery. (BMI is an estimate of body fat based on height and weight.)
“These findings highlight opportunities for clinicians to address these modifiable factors before postmenopausal women undergo joint replacement surgeries,” Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director of the North American Menopause Society, said in a society news release.
The investigators also found a high rate (67%) of vitamin D deficiency in postmenopausal women scheduled for total knee replacement surgery.
The report, by Dr. Yu Song of Shanghai Tenth People’s Hospital Affiliated to Tongji University School of Medicine in China, and colleagues was published online May 5 in “Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society.”
The results add to previous studies linking vitamin D deficiency with the development of osteoarthritis, muscle cramps, bone pain, trouble walking, decreased bone mineral density, and fractures.
Such research could help health providers evaluate postmenopausal women before major joint surgeries, the study authors suggested.
Vitamin D deficiency is a major problem worldwide. An estimated 60% of adults have insufficient levels of the vitamin, the researchers said.