by Dr. Wendy Walsh, DrWendyWalsh.com
A good love life may feel like a luxury, not a necessity, but science is showing us that our relationships have a direct impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. Let’s face it, our environment affects our biology and there is no more all-encompassing environment than our primary relationship, so choosing a healthy partner may be the best health decision of your lifetime. Here are five ways that love makes us healthier:
A healthy relationship means a stronger heart...literally.
A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology analyzed married men and women in Finland and found that married couples of all ages had a reduced risk of heart attack for both men and women. In another study, married adults who underwent heart surgery were a whopping three times as likely as single folks who had the same surgery to survive the next three months.
Healthy conflict helps your immune system function.
In a study at Ohio State University College of Medicine, the immune systems of married couples post-dispute were examined. The results? Those who practiced healthy arguing habits did less damage to their immune systems than those couples engaging in World War III battle style. (The good news is that positive resolutions skills can be learned.)
Good health habits are contagious within couples.
A study from researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School showed that having and living with a healthy partner can rub off on you. The researchers found that there is a protective nature in significant others in regard to healthy habits, particularly for young adult women. If a female has a healthy partner, she is more likely to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day and exercise three or more hours a week. These healthy habits mean partners are less likely to be overweight and obese.
Married people smoke less.
An article published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that married people are less likely to be smokers. Perhaps someone in the household is cracking the whip and doling out the Nicotine gum. Of course this non-smoker lifestyle has long-term health benefits for both partners – non-smokers live longer and stay around longer to support each other.
A good relationship can help the body heal itself.
Dr. Harry Lodge, author of Younger Next Year, explains that low-stress allows blood to flow more freely to the brain, the organ that regulates your body effectively. It also relaxes blood vessels in the entire body delivering blood where it is needed, to provide chemicals and nutrients that would otherwise be used up from stress. This means a stronger immune system. In addition, to getting sick less, married people get over their symptoms faster than single people.
But it isn’t just any healthy partner who can give you impeccable habits — the relationship itself has to be strong and supportive. The condition of a relationship itself has an affect on the health habits of males and females. People with positive, happy marital interaction have better eating and sleeping habits, as well as less substance abuse problems. And research shows that these same health benefits happen to same-sex as well as heterosexual couples.
But, the flip-side of all this healthy news is that a bad relationship can affect your health negatively. There is a lot of talk about “toxic relationships” these days, but the kind that sends one to a hospital is one that involves one of these things: domestic violence, child abuse, emotional abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, or chronic infidelity, all things that create enormous emotional or physical stress. And, these factors make the nest completely unsafe for others who may be residing there.
Finally, individual happiness is also a factor. Happier people make more healthful decisions and choose more supportive relationships. Living a life of health and fitness doesn’t come with a snap of the finger and a hot, fit boyfriend/girlfriend. As much as supportive urging helps, being a healthy weight and having a fit lifestyle stems from being happy with where you are in life and the relationships you are in. The most important relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself.