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Happy Marriage, Healthy Heart: The Power Of Primary Food

September 12, 2011

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Here’s some heart-warming news for all you married people out there: new research shows that having a long-term mate is beneficial to your health. According to a recent University of Rochester study published in Health Psychology, happily married people who undergo coronary bypass surgery are more than three times as likely to be alive fifteen years later as single people.

In fact, the health benefits of marital bliss are so high that according to co-author Harry Reis, they are “every bit as important to survival after bypass surgery as more traditional risk factors like tobacco use, obesity, and high blood pressure.”  The numbers speak for themselves: Fifteen years after surgery, 83% of happily married women were still alive versus 28% of unhappily married women and 27% of unmarried women.

This study only confirms the “marriage advantage” phenomenon that scientists have observed for centuries. According to a report in the NY Times, married people are less likely to get pneumonia, have surgery, develop cancer, have heart attacks, and even get dementia. The quality of the marriage counts, too. Ohio State University researchers (and fittingly, married couple) Ronald Glaser and Jan Kiecolt-Glaser found that when married couples argue, their immune systems suffer and their bodies take far longer to heal from injury.

So why is a happy marriage so profoundly connected to health? Reis speculates, “Marriage gives you purpose in life, and feeling like you have a reason to live is an important part of doing the things you need to do to stay alive. Married people also help each other, remind each other it’s time to take their pills. And they probably eat healthier.”

 Sound familiar? There are many things that nourish us, not just food on our plate. Relationships, careers, spirituality, and physical activity – these are all crucial sources of primary food that give us physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. All of these dimensions of the human experience are often more important than the secondary food that we put in our mouths. And as it turns out, they can literally save your life.

What primary foods nourish you and keep you healthy?