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Being unmarried linked to risk of heart disease, stroke

Marital status should be included as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), a team of international researchers has suggested.

The call comes after their study revealed that marriage might protect people against heart disease and stroke, and influence who is more likely to die of the conditions.

Researchers from, among others, Keele University in the UK and Macquarie University pooled available data to clarify mixed findings of research on the impact of marital status.

“While 80 per cent of the risk for future CVD can be predicted from known cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, smoking and diabetes mellitus, the determinants for the remaining 20 per cent risk remain unclear,” the authors wrote.

“One factor which may be associated with CVD is marital status and studies have reported inconsistent findings.”

Published in the BMJ's Heart, the study drew on 34 out of a total of 225 studies and involved more than two million people aged between 42 and 77 from Europe, Scandinavia, North America, the Middle East and Asia.

Compared with people who were married, those who were not had an increased risk of all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease (CHD) and both CHD and stroke mortality in the general population.

Those who were divorced had a higher risk of CHD and stroke than married individuals.

Lead researcher Chun Wai Wong from Keele University said future research should focus on whether marital status should be considered as a risk factor by itself.

Study senior author professor Mamas Mamas from Keele University said: “Our work suggests that marital status should be considered in patients with or at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and should be used alongside more traditional cardiac risk factors to identify those patients that may be at higher risk for future cardiovascular events.”

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