Sketch of guy skipping whistling hearts

Love: The Great Healer

British researchers made an interesting discovery in 2004: Love can protect the heart. They enlisted 1,034 patients in the study. All of them had just suffered heart attacks.

The patients who had close relationships with friends or family members were the lucky ones. Those without a support group were twice as likely as the others to have a second heart attack within a year's time.

"The fact of having at least one close, intimate relationship seems to be the important factor," said Dr. Francis Creed, the professor of psychological medicine who headed the study. The researchers found no relationship between depression and recurring heart disease, he said.

"We did find that lack of social support—not having a person with whom one can share all—was related to an increased chance of a further heart attack or severe angina." Angina is chest pain caused by constricted coronary arteries.

What is the link between heart health and social support? People close to the patients might encourage them to take better care of themselves. But hormones might come into play, too.

"We also know that those with a close confidant react to stress with less of an upsurge of hormones," Creed said. "This may be particularly important after a heart attack when the heart is particularly susceptible to an increase in stress hormones."

Source: HealthDayNews, April 15, 2004, found at http://www.madhoo.com/archives/003056.php