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Does divorce increase the odds of a heart attack?

There is no disputing that while divorce can ultimately prove liberating, the process itself can be emotionally draining and physically taxing for all parties from the spouses and their children to friends and family members.

Interestingly, a group of researchers from Duke University recently set out to measure just how much of an impact, if any, that divorce has on the heart health of spouses. The results may surprise you.

What did the study discover about divorce and heart health?

The Duke researchers examined a group of almost 16,000 adults between the ages of 45 to 80 who were followed from 1992 to 2010. At the start of this timeframe, the study participants were married, divorced once or widowed.

Breaking the numbers down, they determined that eight percent of the study participants had suffered a heart attack and that the heart attack risk was elevated among those who had divorced.

What else did it discover?

The researchers found that the impact of divorce on heart health was more pronounced for women, as those who had divorced at least once were 25 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack and those who had divorced multiple times were 77 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack.

What about the impact on men's heart health?

Curiously, they found that the heart attack risk for men jumped by 30 percent among those who have been divorced at least twice, but that this risk disappeared upon remarriage.

Do the researchers have an explanation for these findings?

The study stopped short of declaring that divorce will jeopardize a person's heart. However, others have theorized that dissolution of marriage could play a role in heart health given the stress involved, the potential loss of support structures and the potential abandonment of a healthy lifestyle once the marriage ends (overeating, smoking, forgoing medical checkups, etc.).

Did the study leave more questions than answers?

Yes, theresearchers indicated thatadditional studies would be needed to determine things like why women's heart health was so disproportionately affected by divorce and whether the same results would hold true among a younger age demographic.

They did indicate, however, that the study should serve as a reminder to people of the importance of keeping a close watch on their physical and mental health in the months and years following the end of their marriage.

What are your thoughts on this study?

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