5 Ways to Be Happier

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Adoring your spouse can also help keep your heart healthy, according to a September 2003 study. The study found that women who rated their romantic relationship as highly satisfactory had fewer cardiovascular risk factors, says Linda C. Gallo, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at San Diego State University and lead author of the study. "Not only did the happily married women have a higher level of good cholesterol and a lower one of bad cholesterol, but their blood pressure was also lower, compared to single or unhappily married women, who tended to show a blood pressure increase after menopause."

Why would the state of your union have any effect on your cholesterol levels? First, a loving relationship means less stress, which means that fewer hormones such as cortisol -- one of the chief culprits in weight gain -- are released. Less weight gain, in turn, helps decrease the threat of heart disease, the number one killer of American women. Indeed, the study, which tracked about 500 women ages 42 to 50 over a 13-year period, found that happy wives typically avoided weight gain, even during middle age, a time when women often pack on extra pounds, while those who were single or unhappily married usually got heavier over the years. That's dangerous, because being overweight ups the risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Support from your spouse can also boost your motivation to ditch heart-harming habits, such as smoking or a high-fat diet. Consider Glynis Buschmann, of Yuba City, California. Until her marriage, in 2002, she was a confirmed couch potato whose only exercise was an occasional walk. "Just before Clark and I married, he added me to his gym membership and since then, I've started working out three to five times a week, with exercise machines, weights, and the treadmill," says the 42-year-old secretary. "I was already slender, but my husband has commented on how much healthier I look. My posture is better, I feel more confident, and I sleep better knowing that I'm beside someone who loves me."

Continued on page 4:  Determination


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