Science Again Upholds The Notion That Love Is Good For Us

0
28

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.”~Audrey Hepburn

They are your rock, your anchor, your best friend. And while you might be able to live without your spouse or significant other, you don’t ever want to. And as it turns out, there’s not only a romantic, but a practical reason for thatone that might involve a little self preservation.

Science has again upheld the notion that love is good for us, that being close to your loved one—whether in body or spiritcan make you healthier. A recent study found that visualizing your significant other may be just as effective as having them in the room with you for lowering your blood pressure. The study, published by University of Arizona (UA) psychologists in the journal Psychophysiology, discovered that when it comes to managing the body’s cardiovascular response to stressful situations, just thinking about your romantic partner may help keep your blood pressure under control just as effectively as actually having your significant other in the room with you.

Researchers for the study asked 102 participants, who were in committed romantic relationships, to complete a stressful task—submerging one foot into 3 inches of water ranging from 38 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety, that’s cold. “Cold water can kill you in less than a minute,” the center reports. “That’s a scientific and medical fact that most people have trouble understanding because they have no personal experience actually being in cold water. When they hear or think about 50-degree water, it doesn’t sound particularly cold – or dangerous – because they’re mentally comparing it to 50-degree air. It’s a big mistake that gets a lot of people killed each year.”

For the UA study, researchers measured participants’ blood pressure, heart rate and heart rate variability before, during and after the cold-water task.

Prior to the task, researchers randomly assigned study participants to one of three groups: those who had their partner present, those who were told to think about their partner, and those who were told to think about their day during the stressor. Researchers found that participants in both the partner present and mental activation conditions had significantly lower blood pressure response during the cold pressor task compared to control participants for both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, though no significant differences emerged for heart rate.

“Close relationships, especially high‐quality romantic relationships, are consistently associated with positive physical health outcomes,” wrote UA psychology doctoral student, Kyle J. Bourassa. In an article in UA News, Bourassa said while previous studies have suggested that having a partner present or visualizing a partner can help manage the body’s physiological response to stress, the new study, suggests that the two things are equally effective–at least when it comes to blood pressure response. In other words, the effect on blood pressure was just as powerful whether the partner was physically present or merely conjured mentally.

The findings may help explain, in part, why high-quality romantic relationships are consistently associated with positive health outcomes in scientific literature, said Bourassa, who co-authored the study with UA psychologists David Sbarra and John Ruiz.

Some couples will say they didn’t need a study to tell them they are more at ease with their partners present, in their thoughts or at the very least on the phone or a laptop. Christine Ewalt said she is essentially dependent on her husband of over two decades when she is facing stressful situations. “If Eric is present, I am calmer,” she said. “No matter what the stressful situation, but especially in hospital situations, if I am in the hospital, I prefer that he stays with me the whole time I am there. One time I was so sick he could not stay, and my blood pressure was actually higher when he was gone. It is not as good when he is not there at all, but if I can call him or face-time him, that’s better. So I guess that’s like thinking about him, but I can at least hear him. If that makes sense.”

Scientists continue to argue over the role love plays in our overall health and whether married people live longer. Harvard Medical School reported in June that a “survey of 127,545 American adults found that married men are healthier than men who were never married or whose marriages ended in divorce or widowhood. Men who have marital partners also live longer than men without spouses; men who marry after age 25 get more protection than those who tie the knot at a younger age, and the longer a man stays married, the greater his survival advantage over his unmarried peers.”

Many studies conducted over the past 150 years suggest that marriage is good for health, Harvard reported. And if marriage does protect health, Harvard researchers said the heart would be a likely beneficiary. “Japanese scientists reported that never-married men were three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than married men. And a report from the Framingham Offspring Study also suggests that marriage is truly heartwarming. Scientists evaluated 3,682 adults over a 10-year period. Even after taking major cardiovascular risk factors such as age, body fat, smoking, blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol into account, married men had a 46% lower rate of death than unmarried men.”

Coronary artery disease and hypertension are among the most significant causes of heart failure, Harvard reported. “But even after this serious problem has developed, a supportive marriage is associated with improved survival.”

Carita Crain said nurses knew by her mother’s vital signs when the love of her life was close, even after their marriage had ended. “When my mom lived with us, on hospice, with advanced Alzheimer’s, the nurses noticed her blood pressure always rose when my dad was visiting us,” Crain said. “They had been divorced for about 25 years at that time. She was in hospice for three and a half years and he visited us twice a year. Even though she was pretty much nonverbal by then, her blood pressure showed that she knew him. The nurses would always say, ‘Your dad is in town, right?’ Then one time he came and her blood pressure didn’t change. She died a few weeks later.”

Further, researchers in the UA study also found that although both participants who had their partners present and those who were told to think of their partners had similar blood pressure responses, those in the partner present condition reported significantly less pain as a result of the task.

And changes in blood pressure were greater for people with lower self-reported relationship satisfaction—results that suggest that thinking of a romantic partner and having a partner present both ward off severe stress responses in much the same way, Bourassa said.

The results could also help young people before hypertension sets in. A University of Pittsburgh study found that young people who have frequent, large increases in blood pressure during stress are at risk for developing high blood pressure later in life.

Bourassa said his findings also suggest that people might actually cope with stress better and have less significant reactions to it throughout the day by being in a romantic relationship. And this, in turn, might help support overall health. “It appears that thinking of your partner as a source of support can be just as powerful as actually having them present,” he said.

And better blood pressure could mean a better mind. A recent clinical trial led by scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Health, found intensive control of blood pressure in older people significantly reduced the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor of early dementia.

Participants in Bourassa’s research were college undergraduates in committed relationships, but Bourassa said future studies should look at members of the general community in varying age ranges.

“Life is full of stress, and one critical way we can manage this stress is through our relationshipseither with our partner directly or by calling on a mental image of that person,” Bourassa told UA News. “There are many situations, including at work, with school exams or even during medical procedures, where we would benefit from limiting our degree of blood pressure reactivity, and these findings suggest that a relational approach to doing so can be quite powerful.”

Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here