26 Oct For Better or Worse, Most Couples Share Lifestyle Risk Factors
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Samia Mora, MD MHS
Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School
Director, Center for Lipid Metabolomics
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Boston, MA 02215
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Couples, both married couples and domestic partners, are likely to share similar environmental exposures, adopt similar behavior patterns, and have similar characteristics. However, the degree to which couples share similar levels of cardiovascular (CV) risk factors and behaviors is uncertain. If high levels of poor CV risk factor measures and behaviors are common in both members of a couple, programs that target improvement of these risk factors and behaviors may simultaneously benefit CV health in both members of the couple.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: In a cohort of 5,364 couples (10,728 individuals; 54% White; median age, men 50, women 47 years) undergoing an annual employer-sponsored health assessment (2014-2018), we found high concordance of non-ideal behaviors within couples: 79% of the couples were in the nonideal category of a CV health score, a score based on the American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7. This was driven mostly by unhealthy diet (94% of couples) and inadequate physical activity (53% of couples). Most couples were concordant on CV risk factors and behaviors.
Furthermore, when one member of a couple was in the ideal category, the other member was more likely to also be in the ideal category for all factors except for cholesterol. These patterns did not change substantially over a 5-year longitudinal analysis. However, for several CV risk factors and behaviors, attaining ideal status by 1 member of a couple was associated with the ideal status of the other member in the prior year.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Most couples were both in a nonideal category for CV risk factors and behaviors that are amenable to lifestyle interventions or preventive treatments. Behavior modification and CV prevention programs may benefit both the targeted and the non-targeted member of a couple.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: There was variation of within-couple concordance according to ethnicity, geography, and socioeconomic status. This deserves further investigation and could be used to tailor behavioral intervention programs to reduce CV health disparities.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: Programs that focus on couples-targeted prevention and lifestyle modification may help improve the success of CV prevention efforts.
The study population was derived from employees and spouses/partners who participated in a voluntary health assessment program at Quest Diagnostics. Several coauthor are employees and shareholders of Quest Diagnostics. Dr. Mora received personal fees from Quest Diagnostics for work outside the current study.
Shiffman D, Louie JZ, Devlin JJ, Rowland CM, Mora S. Concordance of Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Behaviors in a Multiethnic US Nationwide Cohort of Married Couples and Domestic Partners. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(10):e2022119. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.22119
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