West Valley Medical Center - February 11, 2016

Traditional wedding vows usually include phrases like “for better or for worse” and “in sickness and in health.” But no one wants to see their beloved partner suffer.

Fortunately, when it comes to heart health, married couples could be in luck: Bonding over those vows and sticking to them might actually be better for your cardiovascular system.

In honor of American Heart Month and Valentine's Day this February, here's look at the link between your heart and your sweetheart.

Can A Healthy Marriage Lead To A Healthy Heart?

The quick answer: Yep. Tons of studies have shown that marriage is good for your heart and that the stronger your marriage, the stronger the benefits to your heart become.

For instance, married people tend to have lower rates of heart disease compared to their unmarried peers, a March 2014 study by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) found.

Married people of all ages had a 5% lower chance of being diagnosed with any type of vascular disease. For married people younger than 50, the benefit was even stronger, at 12% lower.

There might be many reasons why heart disease is less prevalent among married couples. These include better access to both health insurance and healthcare as well as the positive effect that companionship can have on a person's health, the ACC research suggests.

These benefits also extend to recovery from heart surgery. Unmarried people might be almost twice as likely to die after heart surgery compared with married people, according to a March 2012 study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Part of the reason why married couples might fare better after surgery could be because of a spouse's ability to serve as both a caregiver during recovery and a coach to adopt healthier habits afterward.

Marriage Alone Is Not Enough: Quality Relationships Matter, Too

Research also shows that the stronger your relationship with your spouse or partner, the bigger the boost to your heart health you might receive.

In older couples, a good marriage quality and a lower risk of heart disease go hand-in-hand, a December 2014 article in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior reported.

What Does A Healthy Marriage Look Like?

While the definition of healthy marriage will vary slightly from couple to couple, there are some general signs of quality relationships that happily married couples have.

Providing Each Other With Emotional Support

Emotional support isn't just a matter of comforting your spouse in times of distress. Providing ongoing reassurance and encouragement is key.

And the ability to make your partner laugh is a sign of a healthy marriage, explains the American Psychological Association (APA).

Setting Boundaries

Boundaries in a strong marriage should be both internal and external. This means respecting your spouse's independence. It also means the couple forms a separate identity from your extended family, says the APA.

Facing Challenges Head-On Together

Staying united in the face of difficulties while also feeling free to express your emotions in front of your spouse can help keep your marriage strong during difficult times, according to the APA.

Knowing When To Get Help

Sometimes, it's best to talk to a counselor when life's challenges get in the way of a quality relationship. Knowing when to seek help can prevent these issues from getting out of hand by teaching you healthy coping, listening, and communication skills, says the APA.

Keeping Communication Open

In fact, communication is one of the most important aspects of a healthy marriage. Communication means checking in with your spouse regularly about everything from, “Hey, how was your crazy co-worker today?” to deeper relationship or family issues you might be struggling with, explains the American Psychological Association.

Spending Quality Time Together

Just because the honeymoon is over doesn't mean the fun is, too. Keep your relationship with your spouse strong by setting aside time for each other, such as date nights, suggests the APA.

If you feel like you and your partner are in a relationship rut, change it up. Try a vacation or a new outing. Breaking out of your usual pattern can add excitement and bring you closer together.

And ultimately your health including your heart can benefit from the strong bond you two have.