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CVD among couples – it takes two to tango!

An individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is significantly associated with that of his or her partner, meaning that prevention strategies targeting couples and families may be appropriate, according to a study published recently in Clinical Cardiology.1

The authors used American Heart Association ideal health metrics to investigate the presence of this affect, known as spousal concordance. They used the Mitchelstown Study, a community-based cohort study of middle-aged Irish adults. Potential couples were identified as two study participants living at the same address.

This list was cross-referenced with self-reported marital status and telephone number in the electronic patient record. Information on cardiovascular (CV) health metrics (smoking, body mass index, physical activity, diet, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose) was collected using standardised methods. Participants were categorised as ideal, intermediate, or poor for each of the metrics and for overall CV health. The 0- to 14-point CV health metrics score was compared within couples using linear regression.

Of 2,047 participants, 191 potential couples were identified. They excluded six sibling pairs, one divorced couple, and three couples who self-reported being single. The analysis includes 181 couples. There were significant associations between partners for smoking, diet, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose (P<0.05). No couple had ideal CV health (i.e. both partners with seven ideal metrics). Most couples (n=127, 69%) were concordant for poor CV health. There was a significant relationship between partners for the CV health metrics score (P<0.05).

Dr AnneMarie O’Flynn (University College Cork, Ireland)

Dr AnneMarie O’Flynn (University College Cork, Ireland)

Speaking to BJC Arrhythmia Watch, lead author Dr AnneMarie O’Flynn (University College Cork, Ireland) said: “We would suggest that prevention strategies should be targeted at couples, for example, in a situation where somebody presents with a cardiovascular condition and has a partner it may be appropriate to incorporate a session into their cardiac rehabilitation programme where both partners receive information on lifestyle modification and risk factor control. Such an approach is already being taken in the MyAction Programme for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, which was highlighted in a supplement of your journal in 2013”.

“The prevalence of atrial fibrillation in the entire Mitchelstown cohort was 2%. The mean age of those with atrial fibrillation was 60 years vs. 59 years for those without atrial fibrillation (p=0.4). Unfortunately we did not have sufficient numbers with atrial fibrillation in the couples study to address this question,” Dr O’Flynn added.


1. O’Flynn AM, McHugh SM, Madden JM, Harrington JM, Perry IJ, Kearney PM. Applying the ideal cardiovascular health metrics to couples: a cross-sectional study in primary care. Clin Cardiol 2015;38:32–8.

Published on: November 24, 2015

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