Happy Relationship, Happy Heart!

Did you know that romantic relationships can impact our heart health? It’s true! Research shows that people in sustainable and nurturing relationships are less likely to experience stress, have lower rates of inflammation, and enjoy, overall, better heart health. To celebrate the month of love, Dr. Bitner discusses the link between happy relationships and a happy heart on Fox 17. 

Fact #1: 

To paraphrase Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, sustainable and nurturing relationships are ones in which each person owns their baggage, asks for what they want, and is willing to give the other person what they need. Going home to your partner should be the easiest, safest part of your day. If you can speak your mind and be yourself with a partner, your heart will thank you.

Fact #2:

Positive emotions and optimism are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. According to recent studies:

  •  “Compared to those with low levels of emotional vitality or optimism, people with moderate and high levels of vitality or optimism had approximately 20–30% reduced risk of incident coronary heart disease (CHD) 5 years later”
  • People who experience more daily positive events (e.g., having a pleasant conversation, spending time in nature) and who are involved in productive activities, particularly volunteering, tend to have lower levels of inflammation.”

Fact #3:

Love in a healthy relationship is also linked to better sleep, less anxiety, and better coping skills. These positive effects disappear when a relationship is neutral or negative. Therefore, fulfilling and positive romantic relationships can positively impact heart health and help to reduce heart disease.

Fact #4:

Heart health is a culmination of many behaviors, including nutrition and activity, family history, biology, and emotional well-being. Being in a neutral or negative romantic relationship can cause poor sleep, less motivation to exercise, overeating, and excessive alcohol intake. If you are in a relationship where you and your partner do not feel supported or cannot laugh and feel joy, your physical heart can suffer.

Patient Story: 

Jane was at a boiling point with her husband. She had a full-time job while juggling three kids, aging parents, and volunteering at her church and book club. She did not feel supported by her husband, who also worked hard to build their business and coach a local soccer team. While both started with great intentions, they were not finding much joy in the present. As a couple, Jane and her husband used to be romantic, often spending time together. Now they fought about who did more for the family and were mad about being mad. 

Thankfully, Jane listened to the book Eight Dates by the Gottmans on her commute. She realized she had stopped being curious about her husband’s needs and lost sight of how much she respected and liked her husband. Jane also missed him being curious about her needs! Before Valentine’s Day, she sat down with her husband to ask for help to feel more connected again. On Valentine’s Day, they went to dinner and committed to growing healthier together. Jane is looking forward to their next date next week and is relieved to know they are working together on their well-being physically and emotionally.

Health Tip of the Week: 

Romantic well-being and our health go hand-in-hand. Emotional stability makes us healthier, and being healthy can set us up for happier romantic relationships. To get started, list out each reason you love and respect your partner. Then, tell them! Having curiosity about others inside thoughts and needs is essential to creating a safe, healthy partnership and a happy heart. 

Watch the full segment.