CLEVELAND – Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans.
Controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and getting plenty of exercise all reduce cardiovascular risk – but according to a recent survey, a loving relationship may play a role too.
More than 70 percent of survey participants who were in committed relationships said their partner encourages heart healthy habits.
“There is good data to show that married couples actually do better in terms of their cardiovascular health,” said Christine Jellis, M.D., Ph.D., of Cleveland Clinic. “I’m sure it’s that benefit of being each other’s cheerleaders and motivating each other to lead happy healthy lives. But I’m sure that also applies to other committed relationships whether that’s a deep friendship, or a non-married relationship.”
Results also show 67 percent reported cooking healthy dinners together and almost half exercise with one another.
“We’re invested in the healthy hearts of our loved ones and therefore we give them extra encouragement to do all those good things,” said Dr. Jellis.
But the flip side is also true – about 2-in-3 people admit their partner enables unhealthy habits as well.
“We can influence each other, but in both good and bad ways,” she said. “So, I think really carving out that relationship with someone that you can call them out of there if they’re pigging out on that bag of chips and drag them off the couch.”
Americans are looking for motivation too – more than half wish their significant other encouraged a heart healthy lifestyle.
“Get your loved one do some exercise, take them out for a healthy meal, maybe cook it yourselves with healthy ingredients and then perhaps go dancing, or do something to use up some energy,” said Dr. Jellis. “Be each other’s cheerleaders and enjoy the fact that people can grow old together sharing these special relationships memories and doing things that will proactively help themselves.”
The survey also showed 70 percent of Americans think sex is exercise – but Dr. Jellis said that’s not true for the vast majority of people.
She recommends getting a minimum of at least one hour of moderate intensity exercise three times each week.