Marital Bickering May Help Heart Health

Blowing off steam can be valuable, as opposed to keeping negative emotions pent up in a marriage, new research shows.

Studies are finding that spouses who keep quiet about their annoyance or anger toward their husbands or wives increase their risk of heart disease and other physical problems. That applies to women's cardiac health, in particular. The research indicates that venting, as opposed to what's called "self-silencing," may be beneficial.

On The Early Show Wednesday, Dr. Noah Rosen of North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, N.Y. told co-anchor Hannah Storm, "There's no doubt that arguments and debates are something that every couple experiences. And what's important is that people can speak their minds in a safe and good environment, and (that) their argument style be ... positive or warm, instead of negative.

"We're learning more and more about the mind/body connection, and there's a number of people that have underlying medical disorders that arguments can be a trigger for. And my field, migraine, is often triggered by marital stressors but also gastrointestinal problems and other pain syndromes, and now we're learning about cardiovascular health and heart health."

Why worse implications for women?

"Women's health issues are something we're learning more and more about because there hadn't been as much work looking at the differences between men and women in the past. But now we see that debate styles and individual health issues are very different between men and women."

Rosen offered some tips on arguing in a constructive way:

  • Think about what you want to say: "If you think about it before you get into an argument, you can plan the points that you want to make, so that you don't have to be overbearing or try to raise your voice simply to get the point across."
  • Don't overwhelm your partner: "That's always a big issue, where one person feels overwhelmed by the other individual. And modulating your voice, bringing it down, can definitely have an improvement upon the relationship."
  • Listen as much as you talk: "It's always difficult. In an argument, people want to say their peace, and it's much more difficult to listen to the other person but just as key for a good discussion."
  • Seek professional health "when it feels that it's getting beyond the individual argument and it's affecting your life, your children's lives, your social life, your work life, and now, your health."