How Your Marriage Can Slow Disease The power and strength you have as a couple can help fight against Alzheimer's. BY DEBBIE MANDEL
By strengthening your marriage today, your "health savings account" will be bountiful in the future.
Great news for married couples who journey together through thick and thin! When the dust settles on a new groundbreaking study, in which the attention is primarily focused on improving the health and life quality of Alzheimer’s patients, the health benefits of marriage will get a share of the spotlight.
New research highlights a non-pharmacological intervention in Alzheimer’s treatment, which slows down the inevitable decline the disease brings—this is a big wow and might have implications for reducing the damaging effects of other diseases. The study, "Caregiver–Recipient Closeness and Symptom Progression in Alzheimer Disease," which began in 2002, monitored patients and their caregivers for three years. The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, demonstrates that closeness to one’s caregiver correlates with a slower decline in both cognition and function in activities of daily living, especially for people whose spouses took care of them.
One of the researchers involved the study, Maria Norton adds, "Considering the aging of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation, finding ways to reduce risk for development of dementia and slowing the rate of decline in affected individuals are urgent public health priorities." In 2000, there were around 2.5 million patients with AD in the United States. By 2050, that number will increase fourfold. The cost will be enormous on multiple levels: emotional, productive and financial.
Could reducing the ravages of the disease be so simple and without using medication? And what is the take-home message for everyone else, including twenty-somethings?
There is great strength in a team. Together you and your spouse will reduce both physical and emotional inflammation, the damaging effects of stress hormones (which stands as the root cause of many diseases from cardiovascular to autoimmune disorders), to ultimately experience healing. Other medical studies have shown that just holding your beloved’s hand speeds wound healing.
Many successful patients know how to partner their own healing. Instead of fighting their treatment with "Why me?" statements or perceiving the medication as destructive or poisonous as in the case of chemotherapy or radiation, they try to get along with it to activate their own immune system with peace of mind and self-empowerment. But who would have suspected how big a role one’s loving partner would play? Becoming heart smart should not just refer to the cardiovascular system, but to one’s love life. Fortify your marriage; expand your heart as you lower your blood pressure.
It’s time to start making deposits in your "health savings account." This means creating balance in your lifestyle and nurturing your marriage. Many of you get overwhelmed by stress and lash out at your nearest and dearest forgetting how much you mirror yourself in a spouse–that you are really frustrated with the outside world or yourself and not your mate. Make room in your busy life for your marriage and prioritize it because your children will grow up and leave the nest—that is if you do a good job teaching them how to fly. Some day your health or your spouse’s health might depend on your closeness as a couple.
If you are irritable, abrupt or angry at home, try this checklist to serve as a safety valve for your relationship:
My spouse has his or her own stressor to contend with.
I am asking my spouse to be someone he or she isn’t—to change his or her nature.
I’m experiencing self doubts.
Here’s a love doctor’s oath, which you can recite to your spouse: "What would you do if you knew that you could not fail? Well you can’t, not with me! You have my unconditional love."