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Fatherhood is bad for your heart health, but paradoxically, lets you live longer!

Fatherhood is bad for your heart health, but paradoxically, lets you live longer!
What if all the dad jokes were just a coping mechanism?

Being a parent is hard work and a ton of pressure, there’s no escaping that. And it turns out, all the stress that comes from having to provide for your offspring(s) can manifest as health issues (who would’ve thought, right?). For fathers, in particular, raising children can cause heart problems later in life, a new study has found. So, to breed or not to breed?

With heart disease being the leading cause of death in men and women, a new study conducted by Northwestern University, US, looked at fatherhood's long-term impact on heart health across different races and ethnicities. Their research included a little over 2,800 men between the ages of 45 and 84.

Findings suggested that dads, in general, had worse cardiovascular health compared to men without children. This means factors like diet, exercise habits, and blood pressure were less favourable for fathers. Researchers suggest the added stress and responsibilities of fatherhood might make it harder for men to maintain healthy lifestyles.

Early fatherhood might be especially concerning, the researchers revealed. The study also looked at the age men become fathers. Those who started younger (under 25) – particularly Black and Hispanic men – had a higher risk of developing heart problems and even death. This highlights the need for targeted support for young fathers, who might face financial instability and limited access to healthcare resources.

But it’s not all bad. Despite having poorer heart health, fathers in the study actually had lower death rates than non-fathers. This could be due to stronger social support networks and better mental health among dads. Interestingly, the study also found that Black fathers specifically benefited from fatherhood, experiencing a lower death rate than Black men without children.

Since most men become fathers, understanding this link between fatherhood and heart health is crucial, especially for men of colour. It highlights the importance of considering the health of all caregivers in a family unit, not just mothers and children.

In the meantime, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with good diet, exercise, and managing stress is encouraged. Prioritising mental health, establishing open communication with your doctor and seeking support from family and friends can also make a big difference.

The study has been detailed in AJPM Focus and can be accessed here.

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