I met a thirty-something friend after a year recently and was mystified at her almost overnight transformation to a svelte goddess. What added to the mystery was the erstwhile warrior princess coyly saying that she had her husband to thank for her wonder-woman look.
Wondering how much he had paid for what appeared to be an expensive makeover, I congratulated her on her very “K-commendable” reply and cattily suggested she audition for one of the Kyunki avatars on television.
“Oh, you’ve got it wrong,” she said. “We split six months ago and that’s when I suddenly realised how much time I wasted bickering about our relationship. Now I’ve joined a gym and look better than I did in my teens. That’s the reason I thank the swine when I look in the mirror,” she said, sounding more like her old self, to my relief.
Her situation deserves some thought on Women’s Day. Bad marriages are harder on women’s health than on men’s, so women stuck in strained relationships — marked by arguments, angry outbursts and resentment — should consider out. And this is not your usual agony aunt advice but words backed by medical wisdom.
Earlier this week, a US study reported that women in strained marriages are more likely to have high blood pressure, obesity and other signs of a clutch of metabolic disorders called Syndrome X — pot bellies, high blood sugar, high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol, high triglycerides (a type of blood fat) — which is a risk factor for diseases such as heart attack, stroke and diabetes.
According to the study, the depression in a bad marriage affected women in a big way, most likely because, they take the negativity more to heart and mull over it more than the men.
The study — which involved couples between 40 and 70 who had been married for an average of 20 years — found that higher the conflict, hostility and disagreement with the spouse, the higher was the depression and the risk of health problems.
Stress causes the blood vessels to constrict and increases the heart rate, leading to chronic blood pressure and other metabolic abnormalities. “It prompts hormonal changes that can raise blood pressure, redistribute fat around the waist, increase insulin resistance and play havoc with your cholesterol and other blood fats, all of which are risk factors for heart disease,” said Dr Ashok Seth, chairman, Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre.
That apart, says Dr Seth, stress also causes depression that prompts lifestyle changes, such as binge eating or substance abuse. “Most people don’t even realise that they are stressed but start feeling better within days of exercising, which not only makes them physically fitter but also helps them cope with the psychological stress,” he said.
His advice to those who want to lower their heart attack and stroke risk — which is the leading killer for both men and women — is to address psychological factors along with physical risk factors such as high blood pressure and bad cholesterol.
“People should modify behaviours known to affect the metabolic syndrome — such as a healthy diet and exercise — but it would be premature to prescribe dumping unreasonable spouses, even though it’s well established that happiness can improve physical wellbeing,” he said.