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Doctors 'soon to be prescribing romance'?

Chuck, my parents tell me that love and health are related, because I’m not feeling so well in either regard. So what’s love got to do with it? – Sally W., Seneca Falls, N.Y.

I’m no Dr. Ruth, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there are definite correlations among the brain, body and even the bedroom, and there’s no better time to address them than now, when we’re coming up on Valentine’s Day.

Just this past week, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology reported, “Researchers are … finding that love can play a critical role in the health of long-term relationships and of the couples themselves.”

Dr. Lisa Diamond from the University of Utah conducted research of couples in romantic relationships and found that their levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, increased during separation and had negative effects on positive interactions and sleep, among other things.

Diamond concluded, “The findings can contribute to our emerging understanding of the processes through which longstanding romantic ties are beneficial for our health.”

ABC News reported on a study conducted by the State University of New York at Oswego that found that blood pressure lowered when people were with their spouses or partners. This was true whether they were happy or not in their relationships. In short, “familiarity breeds lower systolic numbers.”

Sarah Mahoney from Prevention magazine further explained: “A study last year from the University of Pittsburgh found that women in good marriages have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those in high-stress relationships. The National Longitudinal Mortality Study, which has been tracking more than a million subjects since 1979, shows that married people live longer, have fewer heart attacks and lower cancer rates, and even get pneumonia less frequently than singles. And a new study from the University of Iowa found that ovarian cancer patients with a strong sense of connection to others and satisfying relationships had more vigorous ‘natural killer’ cell activity at the site of the tumor than those who didn’t have those social ties (these desirable white blood cells kill cancerous cells as part of the body’s immune system).”

That is likely why the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies surmised that close relationships generally add years to one’s life.

MedicineNet is a great website for a variety of health and fitness education, including information on love and sex. Here are a few keys that clearly show the interrelation among brain, body and bedroom:





Mahoney concludes, “The benefits of love are explicit and measurable. … Some experts think it won’t be long before doctors prescribe steamy sex, romantic getaways and caring communication in addition to low-cholesterol diets and plenty of rest.”

In short, as Dr. Jon Maner of Florida State University summarized, “love binds romantic partners together for the long term and is associated with a wealth of positive relationship processes.”

But love also can exacerbate pain, he added: “The more love one feels for one’s partner the more one has to lose if the relationship ends. It’s all about protecting one’s relationship.”

What’s love got to do with it? Everything!

Next week’s article: “Foods That Fuel the Fires of Love.”