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Divorced women at increased risk of heart attack

Divorced women at increased risk of heart attack

Divorcees are more likely to have a heart attack than their married counterparts, but divorced women are more likely than men to have a heart attack, according to a new study.


Researchers from Duke University analyzed data from 15,827 people aged 45 to 80 who were followed biennially from 1992 to 2010. Approximately 14 percent of men and 19 percent of women were divorced at baseline, and more than a third had at least one divorce in their lifetime.

The researchers found that women who got divorced were 24 percent more likely than married women to have a heart attack. The risk of heart attack increased to 77 percent for women who had been divorced multiple times. Men who experience two or more divorces had a 30 percent chance of having a heart attack.

Women who remarried had a 35 percent chance of having a heart attack, but men who remarried had significant risk for heart attack.

The study also found that those who divorced multiple times were more likely to have no health insurance and less education, as well as higher rates of depression, smoking, high blood pressure and drinking. Employment history and job status were the factors that contributed most to men’s risk of heart attack, while depression symptoms played a bigger role.

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“More likely it is the stress of divorce itself that created an unhealthy setting that promoted the development of heart disease,” said Dr. Sarah Samaan, a cardiologist and physician partner at Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas.

“It’s impossible to know whether the women whose marriages ended in divorce were more likely to have other unhealthy relationships, and thus more sources of stress in their lives. Yet recent research has found strong evidence that women’s hearts react in a much more negative way to stress than those of men.”

Linda George, a professor at Duke and one of the study authors, said, “This risk is comparable to that of high blood pressure or if you have diabetes, so it's right up there, it is pretty big.”

The study was published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

[Photo credit: Daniel Cviatkov Yordanov / Shutterstock]