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Smart Woman - Mysteries of the Heart

New research shows that marriage can be good for your health. But, losing the one you love can cause some serious heart problems.

    Each year, more than two million Americans say "I do." Some experts say as many as 91-percent of married Americans are happily married. It's a far cry from the usual mantra that we hear, which is that half of all marriages end in divorce; it turns out, that's not true, and now new research shows marriage can actually help you survive a health crisis. But, on the flip side, losing the one you love can cause serious heart problems.

    After nearly 47 years of marriage, Charles Strassner lost his wife Anne. "There isn't a day goes by that I, that I don't think of her" said Strassner. Charles knew his wife was dying, but her death was still unbearable, he had what doctors call broken-heart syndrome. "It is absolutely a real thing. They have chest pain reminiscent of a heart attack. They have EKG changes that look like a heart attack" Said DR. Christine Tompkins, a cardiologist from the University of Rochester medical center. It's acute heart failure triggered by stress and it can happen to healthy people with healthy hearts. Tompkins added "they can present with life-threatening arrhythmias and actually sudden death and need to be shocked and resuscitated back to life."

    It can kill you, but it can also be treated and reversed. Researcher Kathleen King has uncovered another mystery: happily married people who have heart surgery are more than three times as likely to be alive 15 years later as unmarried people. King said "we were really surprised at the result. We really did not expect the difference to be that big." And how happy you are matters, King added "83 percent of the women who were highly satisfied with their marriage were still alive compared to 29 percent of the women who were not satisfied with their marriage."

    But, Charles is happy for every minute he had with Anne, and he said "It's still lonely though. Making supper for one is not that great." But he has faith he'll see her again. "Just by the Grace of God I get through the days, day by day" said Strassner.

    Broken-heart syndrome, which is also called Stress Cardiomyopathy, can also be brought on by sudden good news like winning the lottery. It is most common among post-menopausal women. high blood pressure and migraines also appear to be risk factors for the condition. Doctor Tompkins says it's vital to seek medical attention right away for any heart symptoms experienced during a stressful time.

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