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If you’re married, chances are good that you SHARE health challenges!

A study was published in December 2023 in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA), which examined patterns of hypertension in four different countries, namely China, England, India, and the United States. The main aim of this study was to investigate the likelihood of both married or committed partners having the same health issues, known as health concordance. The study involved a large sample size, including 6,514 Chinese, 1,086 English, 22,389 Indian, and 3,989 American individuals. The research found that in almost half of the couples, both partners had hypertension. Interestingly, this was the case regardless of their place of residence, level of education, or income.

This study suggests implementing couple-centered strategies could improve hypertension diagnosis and management in middle-aged and older adults.

Concordant hypertension refers to hypertension in both partners of a married couple. This phenomenon can be explained by the fact that couples tend to share similar environments, meals, and social activities, which can either contribute to or alleviate the development of hypertension. Additionally, people often look for partners with comparable preferences and characteristics, known as “assortative mating.”

Researchers have studied strategies that focus on couples to manage various health conditions. Adopting healthy habits like regular exercise, reducing stress, and making better dietary choices can be challenging if someone’s spouse or partner is unwilling to make similar changes. Collaborating with your spouse can significantly influence healthcare outcomes. These findings emphasize the importance of discussing health-related issues with spouses and adopting shared approaches for better management of hypertension.

Healthcare providers often provide care for multiple family members (thus, the “family doctor”). They may listen to each other’s concerns about their partner’s health. Pharmacists can educate couples on controlling blood pressure to avoid complications. They can emphasize that if complications such as stroke occur, the spouse’s overall health is likely to decline. Caregiving can be stressful and often leads to anxiety and depression.

And it’s not just hypertension! There is evidence suggesting that the cardiometabolic risks of married couples overlap. If one partner has type 2 diabetes or heart disease, the other partner’s risk doubles.

While the JAHA study focused hypertension, this study adds to the understanding that there are many ways in which partners’ health is interconnected. Sharing a life together often means sharing health challenges AND victories. A stable and satisfying relationship helps with accountability, emotional support, and motivation. 

If you’re blessed enough to have special someone, consider ways to improve your health together. It’s easier to stay motivated when you’re doing things for someone else, especially someone you love!