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Study finds unhappy marriages put couples at higher risk of heart disease

Older couples, take note: Years of stress resulting from an unhappy marriage can put you at higher risk for heart disease.

"Marriage may promote (good) health, but it's not that every marriage is better than none," Hui Lui, a Michigan State University sociologist and lead author on a study published this week in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, said. "The quality of marriage is really important."

Liu and her team studied 1,200 adults in their late 50s to 80s over five years, asking the husbands and wives about their marriages, how happy they were, how demanding and critical they felt their spouses were. They then compared the respondents' heart health to those answers. The more negatively an adult felt toward his or her marriage, the more at risk he or she was for poor cardiovascular health, The Washington Post reports.

Liu noted that such stressors build over time, which is why older couples are at a higher risk of heart disease.

"It's not like you have contact with your spouse and the next day you have heart disease," Liu said. "It really takes time…Your body will remember the effect."