Item from the Smart
Marriages Archive, reproduced in the Divorce Statistics
December 12, 1998
Studies link love and intimacy to good cardiovascular health
By By Bob Condor/Knight Ridder
In his Oscar-winning role in "Good Will Hunting," Robin Williams
provides a unique spin on
love and intimacy. He tells a young, less-experienced man (Matt Damon) that
loving someone is
about accepting the quirks, the peculiar habits that only lovers can share.
It is in this sharing of the most authentic self - one not entirely apparent
to anyone else in the
world - upon which relationships are built and fortified. Some of the habits
might be cute or
humorous. In the movie, not surprisingly, Williams recounts one uproarious
idiosyncrasies are decidedly serious or intense. These quirks are to be
cherished, he says.
While Hollywood love stories may teach us a few lessons, perhaps more revealing
attention paid to such emotional currents by a growing number of doctors
and researchers. No
scientist has yet distilled romance into a formula, but several formidable
studies link love and
intimacy to improved cardiovascular health.
To their credit, the researchers are not about to stop at romance when determining
effects of intimacy on health. The results are worth taking to heart:
- Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland asked a simple
10,000 married men with no history of chest pains (angina): "Does your
wife show you her
love?" Those men answering yes were found to experience significantly
less angina in the next
five years than husbands responding no - despite such negative indicators
as elevated cholesterol,
high blood pressure, diabetes or electrocardiogram abnormalities.
- Yale scientists surveyed 119 men and 40 women before they submitted to
Those who reported feeling most loved and supported were the same subjects
found to have
markedly less blockage in the arteries. The factor of feeling loved and
supported - or unloved and
unsupported - was independent of any effects of diet, smoking, exercise,
family history or other
- In 1952, Harvard doctors selected 126 healthy male students at random.
The students were
asked to describe the nature of their relationships with their parents.
In 1987, medical records
were obtained for the subjects, who were in their 50s. More than 90 percent
of the men who
didn't perceive warm relationships with their mothers had been diagnosed
with serious illnesses
such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, ulcers and alcoholism, compared
with 45 percent
of men who cited loving relationships with their mothers. For fathers, the
were 82 and 50 percent.
These research studies and several dozen more can be found in a new book,
"Love and Survival"
(HarperCollins) by Dr. Dean Ornish, of the famed low-low-fat diet for reversing
Though he still strictly recommends heart patients eat no more than 10 percent
of their daily
calories in the form of fat, Ornish is liberal in his praise for what can't
be found on any menu.
"The diet can play a significant role," he said. "But nothing
is more powerful than love and
Awareness of loneliness or social isolation is the first step in healing,
With a number of best-selling books to his credit, Ornish is well-positioned
consciousness about the healing qualities of love and intimacy. And other
researchers seem to
welcome his input and influence.
"Americans need to hear this message," said Dr. Redford Williams,
director of behavioral
medicine at Duke University in Durham, N.C. "We don't have actual data
bases, but my opinion
is at least as many people die from social isolation as smoking and maybe
twice as much as
deaths caused by bad dietary choices."
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