Divorce Might Lead to More Than Just Heartache

Acute myocardial infarction risk may be higher among those who are divorced

(RxWiki News) Getting divorced may literally break your heart.

A new study found that going through a divorce may increase the risk of an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) — more commonly known as a heart attack.

In fact, women who went through multiple divorces had an especially high AMI risk — even if they remarried. In contrast, men who remarried did not have a high AMI risk.

Matthew E. Dupre, PhD, of the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, NC, led this study.

“Results showed that divorced men and women had significantly higher risks of AMI than their continuously married counterparts," Dr. Dupre and team wrote. "Remarried women also had increased risks for AMI compared with continuously married women."

A heart attack happens when an artery of the heart is blocked. This blood flow blockage results in damage to the heart tissue from not getting enough oxygen. Part of the heart then stops contracting, but the heart still beats. An AMI is different from cardiac arrest, which is when the heart suddenly stops beating.

Dr. Dupre and team studied nationally representative data on married adults aged 45 to 80. About 14 percent of men and 19 percent of women from this study group were divorced when the study started. By the end of this study, more than a third of the group had at least one divorce.

AMI risks were especially high in women who were divorced, got remarried or had a history of one or more divorces — compared to women who stayed married.

The risk for AMI in men was significantly higher only for those who were currently divorced or had multiple divorces — compared to men who were in a stable marriage.

Also, for both men and women, having a history of two or more divorces was tied to a raised risk of an AMI.

Dr. Dupre and team compared the raised AMI risk tied to divorce to the raised risk that may come from known heart risk factors like smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Patients can improve their heart health by eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. Patients concerned about their heart health should see a doctor.

This study was published April 14 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

The National Institute on Aging funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
April 14, 2015