Couples share hearts and heart health

couple getting ready to exercise

It’s commonly joked that, over time, couples start to look alike, but new research shows married and domestically partnered couples may also start to acquire similar heart health risk levels.

A US study involving 5364 couples found, in most cases, members were either both heart-healthy or not.

The study participants were assessed on several risk factors for cardiovascular health including smoking status, physical activity, weight, diet, blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

Researchers found if one member of a couple was in the ideal range for a specific health measure or risk factor, the second member was also likely to be in that range. The exception being for cholesterol levels which varied more between couple members.

Interestingly, behaviours that affect cardiovascular risk, such as smoking, physical activity and diet, were the areas where couple members were most alike, either negatively or positively.

Most couples could eat better and exercise more

Of concern is that 79 per cent of the couples studied had a non-ideal cardiovascular health score, largely due to poor diet and inadequate exercise.

Corresponding author Samia Mora says the high rate of couples in the non-ideal category was surprising.

“We expected to see some shared risk factors, but it was a surprise to see that the vast majority of couples were in a non-ideal category for overall cardiovascular health,” Dr Mora says.

Your healthy behaviour may help the one you love

She says the findings suggest risk factors and behaviours track together for couples, and interventions to improve health outcomes might be best aimed at couples or whole families, rather than individuals.

“And it’s important for people to think about how their health and behaviours may influence the health of the person(s) they are living with. Improving our own health may help others.”

First published: Oct 2020

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