Love is sweet … and so is science


Can marriage help the heart?

When it comes to heart disease, many studies show that married patients are less likely to experience bad outcomes. New research presented last month at the American Heart Association (AHA) annual meeting suggests that this rings true for patients with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator or ICD – a device designed to prevent sudden cardiac death.

In the study, led by Mehmet Aktas, associate professor of cardiology at the Medical Center, married ICD patients had a 39 percent lower risk of death when compared to unmarried patients. Married patients were more likely to be men and all patients were followed for more than five years.

When asked to explain this phenomenon, Wojciech Zareba, director of the Heart Research Follow-up Program and an international expert on the research and treatment of sudden cardiac death and other electrical disturbances of the heart, said individuals who are married have a built-in caregiver. “Patients who have a spouse living with them may be better taken care of; they may be more likely to take their medications and to attend follow-up appointments, which can lead to better outcomes.”

Zareba added that future research will examine female versus male ICD patients to better determine how gender influences outcomes.

Divorce rate cut in half for couples who discussed relationship movies

A 2014 study finds that watching and discussing movies about relationships is as effective in lowering divorce rates as other, more intensive early marriage counseling programs.

Discussing five movies about relationships over a month could cut the three-year divorce rate for newlyweds in half, researchers report. The study, involving 174 couples, is the first long-term investigation to compare different types of early marriage intervention programs.

How movies can make a marriage better. 

The findings show that an inexpensive, fun, and relatively simple movie-and-talk approach can be just as effective as other more intensive therapist-led methods—reducing the divorce or separation rate from 24 to 11 percent after three years.

“We thought the movie treatment would help, but not nearly as much as the other programs in which we were teaching all of these state-of-the-art skills,” said Ronald Rogge, associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships. Thus, you might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving. And for five movies to give us a benefit over three years—that is awesome.”

Try this at home: Download and print a list of movie titles and discussion questions.

Valentine’s Day serenade

An annual tradition, members of the After Hours a cappella group serenade students with singing Valentines … sometimes during class. 

Mounting evidence shows red wine antioxidant kills cancer

Rochester researchers showed for the first time that a natural antioxidant found in grape skins and red wine can help destroy pancreatic cancer cells by reaching to the cell’s core energy source, or mitochondria, and crippling its function. The study is published in the March 2008 edition of the journal, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.

The study also showed that when the pancreatic cancer cells were doubly assaulted — pre-treated with the antioxidant, resveratrol, and irradiated — the combination induced a type of cell death called apoptosis, an important goal of cancer therapy.

“Antioxidant research is very active and very seductive right now.”
“Antioxidant research is very active and very seductive right now.”

The research has many implications for patients, said lead author Paul Okunieff, M.D., chief of Radiation Oncology at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center.

Although red wine consumption during chemotherapy or radiation treatment has not been well studied, it is not “contraindicated,” Okunieff said. In other words, if a patient already drinks red wine moderately, most physicians would not tell the patient to give it up during treatment. Perhaps a better choice, Okunieff said, would be to drink as much red or purple grape juice as desired.

Yet despite widespread interest in antioxidants, some physicians are concerned antioxidants might end up protecting tumors. Okunieff’s study showed there is little evidence to support that fear. In fact, the research suggests resveratrol not only reaches its intended target, injuring the nexus of malignant cells, but at the same time protects normal tissue from the harmful effects of radiation.

“Antioxidant research is very active and very seductive right now,” Okunieff said. “The challenge lies in finding the right concentration and how it works inside the cell. In this case, we’ve discovered an important part of that equation. Resveratrol seems to have a therapeutic gain by making tumor cells more sensitive to radiation and making normal tissue less sensitive.”

Love in the archives

With the help of our friends in the River Campus Libraries, we found some Valentine’s Day-related publications and ephemera in our archives and special collections.

1851: By My Hand

“I know my words are weak and small/ For mind like thine, unmeet;/ But I have love beyond them all,/ To lavish at your feet.” So concludes Frederick William Seward’s hand-written letter—dated February 14, 1851—to his future wife Anna Wharton. They married in November 1854.

This Valentine’s Day missive is part of the William Henry Seward Papers, one of the most comprehensive collections of the Seward family’s documents spotlighting 19th-century American political and social life.

1892: How to Woo

The Lover’s Handbook, or, How to Woo, Win and Wed was published in 1892. Billed as a “guide to sure success in love and marriage,” the book’s advice is quite comical by contemporary standards. It contains chapters on such topics as:

  • To Marry or Not to Marry! That is the Question
  • How to Court a Bashful Girl
  • General Rules and Remarks as to “Popping the Question”

1919: Paper Valentines

Exchanging love notes and tokens with your sweetheart is a hallmark of Valentine’s Day. In the 20th century, personalized, hand-written letters gave way to mass-produced greeting cards. For many suitors, a postcard or greeting card could help convey regard or affection through catchy verse and colorful design.

This postcard—sent on February 14, 1919—comes from the Robert F. Metzdorf Collection. You can decide for yourself how effectively the verse and imagery combine in this example to convey Valentine greetings.

1979–1981: Well Versed

When you care enough to send the very best to your beloved, follow author John Gardner’s lead and compose your own poem (or “antipoem,” depending on your mood). Born in Batavia, New York, Gardner is best known for writing Grendel, a novel that retells the story of Beowulf from the perspective of the monster.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the writer and professor likely penned these poems to his then wife, Liz Rosenberg. These poems show two sides of Gardner: the sentimental and the sarcastic.

Did you know: February 14 is also Charter Day

On this date in 1851, the University’s charter was officially approved. It was like a love letter from New York State.

From The History of the University of Rochester, by Arthur J. May:

“Persuaded that the financial stipulations of the provisional charter had been satisfied with reasonable adequacy, the State Regents on February 14, 1851 replaced the original instrument with a formal charter. It was prescribed, however, that the charter would be revoked unless within five years the University presented evidence that it had accumulated an endowment of (1968) $100,000. The document itself–still (1968) in perfect condition–is a handsomely bound piece of bookmaking, printed artistically on the finest parchment with illumined gilt borders on each page and diverting devices –landscape sketches, ancient and up-to-date edifices, et cetera.”  

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