Marital disputes can be bad for your heart. Hardening of the arteries is more likely in wives when they and their husbands express hostility in marital disagreements, according to a University of Utah study of 150 healthy older married couples. None had ever had heart disease.
Doctor Emily Senay, a CBS TV medical expert, says couples were asked to discuss a source of conflict in their marriage. "While they were doing it," she says, "researchers recorded the language and how they interacted with each other. And, they looked for friendly versus hostile language and dominant orcontrolling versus submissive language."
Dr. Senay says a CAT scan analyzed their hearts for signs of plaque buildup or hardening of the arteries, a sign of heart disease. "They found that women who were hostile, that is who were themselves hostile, were at risk for coronary heart disease, (as were women) who had hostile husbands."
Dr. Senay says control was the emotional factor that affected men's hearts. "When the men themselves were dominant or controlling they were at greater risk for heart disease, and if they had wives who were dominant and controlling as well they were also at greater risk," she says.
None of the people in the study faced medical emergencies. Study authors say that while a good relationship helps protect the heart, the most important strategy for a healthy heart is to eat well, exercise and stop smoking.