May 07, 2015 8:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs


The idea of “dying of a broken heart” might sound like a cliché, but a new study from Duke University finds that, at least when it comes to divorce, matters of the heart can affect your actual heart.

According to BBC News, the study showed that divorced women were 24 percent more likely to have a heart attack than married women who had never been divorced. The figure jumped to 77 percent after multiple divorces. The heart attack risk for the men in the study came in at 10 percent higher for one divorce and increased to 30 percent for two or more divorces. 

Researchers found that while remarriage lowered men’s risk for heart attack, it did not lower women’s risk.

“Like a job loss or the death of a loved one, divorce is a stressful event that can take a toll on your heart’s health,” says John Ryan, MD, a cardiologist at University of Utah Health.

Nobody gets married expecting the union to end in divorce. Fortunately, there are ways people can protect their heart if they part ways with their spouse. “Find a healthy coping behavior, such as walking or gardening, rather than watching TV or eating ice cream,” Ryan says. “If exercise is a good coping mechanism, than that’s a win-win.”

Ryan adds: “Staying in an unhappy marriage is also bad for your health. If you’ve had a divorce, be mindful of your increased risk and try to mitigate it by improving factors you can control, such as increasing exercise, decreasing your weight or stopping smoking.” 

heart health

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