Cohabitating couples share heart-related habits, risks

Research we're watching

Published: February, 2021

Couples who live together tend to have similar health habits. But only about one in five couples falls into the "ideal" category for heart-healthy habits and risk factors, suggests a study in the Oct. 26, 2020, issue of JAMA Network Open.

Researchers looked at health data on 5,365 couples from diverse racial and economic backgrounds throughout the United States. Most were in their 40s and 50s. Based on risk factors from the American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7 (smoking status, body mass index, exercise, diet, total cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood sugar), researchers categorized individuals and couples as poor, intermediate, or ideal for each factor and over all.

Nearly 80% of couples were in the intermediate or poor categories, mainly because of unhealthy diets and inadequate exercise, the researchers found. On the plus side, both of those factors can be improved. And earlier research suggests that when one member of a couple changes behavior in a positive way, the other member makes similar changes over time. That means programs to encourage heart-healthy habits could help both members of a couple, the authors note.

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