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Is a happy marriage making you fat?

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

Over the years, studies have come out suggesting that marriage may be good for health for a number of reasons. It can help keep people from feeling lonely or developing depression, and even appears to have some benefits for cardiovascular health. However, the findings of a recent study may have some married people ordering cholesterol testing and other blood tests to make sure that they have not developed any obesity-related conditions. According to scientists from Southern Methodist University, happy newlyweds may find themselves packing on the pounds.

Researchers discovered that young newlyweds who are happy in their relationship are more likely to gain weight in the first few years of marriage than those who were less satisfied in their marriage.

Happy isn't always healthy
To come to their conclusions, the scientists examined more than 160 newlywed couples and tracked their satisfaction with their marriage as well as their weight over the course of four months.

People who reported that they were unhappy and considering leaving their spouses gained less weight in comparison to those who remained satisfied in their marriage throughout the course of the study.

According to the scientists, these findings challenge the long-held belief that having happy relationships is always good for a person's health. Rather, the researchers found that people who are happy in their relationship may gain weight because they are less concerned about trying to keep a slim figure to attract a mate. The scientists said that this suggests that people look at their weight as merely being about appearance, when they need to remember that maintaining a healthy size is also a health issue.

"We know that weight gain can be associated with a variety of negative health consequences, for example diabetes and cardiovascular disease," said Andrea Meltzer, lead researcher and an assistant professor in the SMU Department of Psychology. "By focusing more on weight in terms of health implications as opposed to appearance implications, satisfied couples may be able to avoid potentially unhealthy weight gain over time in their marriages."

Benefits of marriage
Of course, this doesn't mean that people should start causing trouble in their relationships just to motivate themselves to lose weight. Rather, couples should make a commitment to stay healthy by eating right, exercising and getting regular blood tests to ensure that they have healthy cholesterol and vitamin levels.

There are also many health benefits to being married. According to Men's Health magazine, a Norwegian study found that divorced and never-married male cancer patients had 11 and 16 percent higher cancer mortality rates than married men. Furthermore, a study from the University of California, Los Angeles found that people who were otherwise healthy were 88 percent more likely to die over the course of an eight-year study if they were single.

Also, the New York Times reported on a study from the University of Virginia that recruited women who reported they were happy in their marriage and put them through stressful situations. The women were given small electric shocks three different times - the first they were alone, the second they held a stranger's hand and during the third it was their husbands' hand. They discovered that when women held their husbands' hand they experienced a calming of the brain regions associated with pain that was not present the other two times. The researchers said that the study simulates how a supportive marriage can help support the brain during painful or difficult times, yet another benefit of being in a healthy partnership.

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