Wives prevent heart disease

What would have happened if I had not married a bright woman, one who majored in English? I’d still be wondering, were it not for her, whether to use a or an, affect or effect. This column wouldn’t have lasted a year if I’d married a not-so-literate wife. I’ll die before I know the meaning of a compound noun. But, just as important as helping with my use of language, my wife has kept me from dying from heart disease.

Some readers who know I had a heart attack five years ago may be saying, “Then why didn’t your wife’s intelligence help you? Maybe she’s not that bright.” But scientific evidence suggests that, without her, I might have had a coronary 20 years earlier.

She’s good for your health
Investigators from the Institute of Nutrition Research at the University of Oslo indicate I was quite shrewd to marry smart. They analysed 20,000 married men over a 14-year period. The men were part of a study looking at a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Researchers obtained information about their cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking habits, weight and exercisroutine. Participants were asked if they had a history of heart disease or angina and if they were taking medication to decrease blood pressure.

But researchers prodded further. They wanted to know which men had married educated women and who had walked down the aisle with less than well-schooled brides. Of the 20,000 men, the wives of 6,000 were less educated than their husbands, 5,000 wives were better educated than their spouses and the rest had similar education levels.

The result showed that the men with well-informed wives had the jump on preventing cardiovascular disease. They had lower blood cholesterol, smoked less, exercised regularly and were less likely to be overweight.

Next page: What’s the critical difference?

But why does all this brilliance in women affect (or is it effect) us men? Dr. Haakon Meyer, the main investigator, says our wives make all the decisions about food and family lifestyle.

 In the majority of households, they decide what goes into the shopping cart. Will it be homogenized or skim milk? Will they buy cookies and soft drinks loaded with sugar? Will they choose any vegetables? Will there be more fish or more meat in the basket? What kind of cooking oil will be bought? And will they know there are nutritionally enhanced eggs, a healthy source of omega-3 fatty acids that fight heart disease? In the end, Meyer reasons that better educated women have the knowledge to make healthier choices.

Now, in the clear light of dawn, I wonder why Meyer had to study 20,000 married men to know what every man already knows. Wives have always made such decisions for us. But how many of us knew their higher learning would save us from coronary attack?

But education isn’t the only factor contributing to the intelligence of women. In another study, at the University of Leiden in Holland, researchers have concluded that women are smarter than men. Studies showed they were mentally sharper in word and number recognition tests. And as it turns out they also beat men in memory tests.

The superior sex
But, even more disturbing for us men, 70 per cent of the women tested had had little education while more than half the men were well-educated. Yet the men still lost out to the women.

Investigators concluded that social factors did not account for this difference in intelligence. Rather, men lost out biologically, a polite if scientifically phrased way of saying that women were born smarter than men.

Am I depressed to find men in second place? Not at all. Had my wife been any less bright, I might have met my Maker long ago. So I say amen and thank heaven for smart wives.