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Divorce can damage women's heart health

Divorce impacts the lives of those involved in a variety of ways. It can affect living situation, finances, and parenting time. One of the ways that it impacts people is their health, specifically, their heart health. A recent study says that this is particularly true for women.

The study says that there is a 24 percent greater chance of a heart attack for women who have been divorced at least once, compared to women who stayed married. Women who had divorced twice or more had a heart attack risk of 77 percent compared to married women.

The study was published in a journal called Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. The primary author, Matthew Dupre of Duke University, looked at whether men faced a comparable risk in concert with his colleagues. He found out that they don't.

Men typically only saw their chances of having a heart attack go up if they got divorced twice or more. If the men remarried, there was no increase in their chances of having a heart attack. Women who remarried still had a slightly higher risk of heart attack, 35 percent, compared to divorced women.

The study was adjusted to take into account other factors than can cause heart attacks, like age, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, changes in job status, changes in health insurance coverage, and age. The study is getting substantial attention because it tracked people's changes in marital status.

The connection between divorce and heart attack may be because of the stress involved, especially when there are multiple divorces. The stress hormone cortisol can be elevated by traumatic events. Increased levels of cortisol have been linked to cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar problems, which, collectively, may lead to increased risk of heart attack. By understanding these risks, women can have an informed view of divorce.

Source: Time, "What Divorce Does to Women’s Heart Health," Alice Park, April. 14, 2015

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