If you have a goal that you’re looking to achieve, especially one that requires lifestyle changes, it stands to reason that having your significant other or spouse on board would make it easier. And that’s exactly what researchers found when they looked at the success rates of heart attack survivors who were advised to lose weight, change their physical activity habits, and quit smoking.
The research, which was presented at European Society of Cardiology’s Congress 2020, found that people who lived with their partners were more likely to change their ways, especially with weight loss.
“Lifestyle improvement after a heart attack is a crucial part of preventing repeat events,” study author Lotte Verweij, a registered nurse and Ph.D. student at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, said in a press release. “Our study shows that when spouses join the effort to change habits, patients have a better chance of becoming healthier — particularly when it comes to losing weight.
The study analyzed a total of 824 patients, with 411 assigned to the group that would take on lifestyle intervention programs on top of typical post-heart attack care. The interventions included up to three programs depending on the patients’ needs and preferences: weight loss, physical activity, and smoking cessation.
Partners were encouraged to attend for free alongside those referred to the programs, and participation was defined as attending at least once. The programs were as follows, the release noted:
- Weight loss: weekly group sessions with a Weight Watchers coach for one year.
- Physical activity: accelerometer to measure activity and an online coach for personalized feedback for one year (Philips Direct Life).
- Smoking cessation: motivational interviewing by telephone by trained professionals from Luchtsignaal for three months plus prescription of nicotine replacement or varenicline therapy as appropriate.
In all, 48 percent of partners took part in the lifestyle interventions, and the patients with involved partners were more than twice as likely to improve in at least one area within a year. Partner involvement made the biggest difference when it came to weight loss.
“Couples often have comparable lifestyles and changing habits is difficult when only one person is making the effort,” Verweij explained. “Practical issues come into play, such as grocery shopping, but also psychological challenges, where a supportive partner may help maintain motivation.”
Quitting smoking and getting active, on the other hand, didn’t seem to be improved when a partner participated in the program. “These lifestyle issues might be more subject to individual motivation and persistence, but this hypothesis needs more investigation,” she said.
So if you’re looking to lose weight but can’t seem to avoid the junk food your partner has around the house, try getting them on board to boost your odds of success.