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Are the recent headlines true? Can being married really improve your heart health? As it turns out, yes—a healthy marriage may indeed be good for the ol’ ticker.

According to a recent nationwide study conducted by researchers at the NYU Langone Medical Center, our marital status does, indeed, affect our risk of heart disease. Overall, researchers surveyed 3.5 million U.S. men and women between the ages of 21 and 99. Here is a breakdown of their key findings, presented last month at the American College of Cardiology Annual Scientific Session & Expo:

  • Being married carried a 5 percent lower risk of having any cardiovascular disease than being single
  • Widowed and divorced people were, respectively, 3 percent and 5 percent more likely to suffer from any kind of cardiovascular disease, including peripheral artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, and coronary artery disease
    • Younger married people, those under age 50, had a 12 percent lower odds of disease than younger single people
    • Older couples, between the ages of 51 and 60, had 7 percent reduced risk, while those above 60 had approximately 4 percent lower odds of disease
    • For risk factors of cardiovascular disease, smoking was highest among divorced people (at 31 percent) and lowest in widowed people (at 22 percent); and obesity was most common in single and divorced people (at 31 percent and 30 percent, respectively). Hypertension, diabetes and being sedentary were most common in widowed people (at 77 percent, 13 percent, and 41 percent, respectively).i

It makes sense, said cardiologist and CBS News contributor Dr. Tara Narula in a recent segment. “We’ve known about this concept of a marriage advantage since almost the late 1800s when it was first described to improve your overall survival,” Narula stated. “And now we’re recognizing that it may be as important as traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”

Essentially, having a good marriage means having a spouse who has your back—one that encourages you to make healthier dietary and lifestyle choices such as eating better, exercising, quitting smoking, and even taking your daily meds. Spouses also offer a solid support system during stressful times and may even notice early signs and symptoms of heart disease risk that their partners may not notice on their own.

However, experts like Narula stress that the quality of the marriage is important, since marital distress can often lead to higher blood pressure, higher stress levels and even depression—all of which can negatively impact heart health.

i http://communications.med.nyu.edu/media-relations/news/married-people-less-likely-have-cardiovascular-problems-according-large-scale-s

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Dining outdoors is one of the best things about spring and summer, so why not host a patio party and invite a few friends for the evening? On the menu are three new light and delicious recipes straight from Brenda Watson’s Love Your Heart Eating Plan that are sure to dazzle your dinner guests.

Seared Sesame Tuna
Serves 4
Ingredients (slaw):
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. low-sodium tamari
1 tbsp. mirin
1 tbsp. rice vinegar (sugar-free)
2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups green cabbage shreds
1 cup Napa cabbage shreds
1 cup bok choy, sliced thinly
½ red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 carrot, sliced thinly
3 scallions, sliced thinly

Ingredients (tuna):
1 tbsp. tan sesame seeds
½ tbsp. black sesame seeds
¼ tsp. wasabi powder
1 lb. tuna steak (about 4 individual 4-oz. pieces, 2 inches thick)
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced

Directions: In a small bowl, whisk together sesame oil, tamari, mirin, vinegar, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, bok choy, red bell pepper, carrot and scallions; add dressing and mix well. Set aside for at least 20 minutes before serving. In a shallow bowl, combine sesame seeds and wasabi powder; coat tuna steaks with mixture, making sure both sides are covered. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear tuna in pan for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until both sides are well browned but tuna is still very rare in the center. Garnish with cilantro and serve with slaw.

Ligurian Chicken
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 cups kale leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, minced
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 large onion, sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
1 bunch fresh mint leaves
Four 6-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pounded lightly)
1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups water or low-sodium chicken stock

Directions: Preheat oven to 400°. In a medium bowl, lightly mash chickpeas with fork. Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add kale and garlic; sauté for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cooked kale to chickpeas, then add scallions and cheese. Let cool. Scatter onion and tomato on bottom layer of a 9×12 baking dish; layer on mint leaves. Gently fold chicken breasts around chickpea mixture and place in baking dish atop tomato and onion. Top with lemon slices and red pepper flakes; pour in water or stock. Lightly cover with foil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until chicken breasts are completely cooked through. Serve and enjoy.

Jicama Beet Salad
Serves 4
Ingredients:
½ large jicama
1 red beet
1 golden beet
1 tbsp. lime juice
½ tsp. fresh ginger, minced
Salt to taste

Directions: Peel and julienne jicama and beets; place in large bowl. Add lime juice, ginger and salt; mix well. Set aside at least 20 minutes before serving.

Remember, the Love Your Heart Eating Plan is a simple and heart-healthy way to eat that focuses on reducing your daily sugar intake and increasing the amount of lean protein, healthy fats, non-starchy vegetables, and low-sugar fruits in your diet to help you stay satisfied throughout the day. Enjoy!

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