Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

February 16, 2014

Study finds spousal support, cardiac health link

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — A failed stress test last August revealed that Connie Sell needed bypass surgery to relieve severe blockage in four of her arteries.

"I had shortness of breath but I considered that part of my age," said Connie, 68, of West Lafayette. "I had some back discomfort but it wasn't continual or constant. I didn't realize my heart was that bad."

She had the surgery that following November with her husband, Dave Sell, supporting her decision to do so. Dave also drove her to appointments, cared for her when she came home and was her cheerleader throughout the process.

He became her motivation.

"My goal was to come back home to be with him, to share with him and be close to him," Connie told the Journal & Courier. "It was very important to have him sitting by my bed to see his face coming in the door. It just lifts your spirits and makes you heal faster."

It's not surprising that Connie believes spousal support plays a role in heart health. A new study also looks at the link between heart health and spousal support. Researchers from the University of Utah found that spouses who view each other as ambivalent, or having both helpful and upsetting qualities when it comes to providing support, had higher levels of calcium deposits, in their coronary arteries, a predictor of heart disease risk.

"The spouse is an important source of support, so when going through problems, they help you, they give you support, advice or understanding, and it really helps you deal with the stress," said Bert Uchino, the study's lead author and a health psychologist with the University of Utah.

Using a sample of 136 older couples, the researchers asked the participants to rate how helpful and how upsetting they perceived their spouse to be during times when they needed support, such as advice, understanding or a favor.

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