Divorce—especially for women—appears to boost the odds of having a heart attack, a new study finds.
The study, in the April 14, 2015, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, included nearly 16,000 adults ages 45 to 80 who had been married at least once. By the end of the 18-year study, more than a third had gone through at least one divorce. Heart attacks were 24% more common in once-divorced women and 77% higher in those divorced at least twice.
Those who remarried were still 35% more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who had not split from their spouses. For men, heart attack risk rose by 30%, but only among those who divorced at least twice. And if they remarried, that heightened risk disappeared.
Over all, the higher risk persisted even when researchers accounted for factors such as loss of income and health insurance
While the emotional and financial stress that often accompanies the end of a marriage might explain these associations, this study doesn’t prove that divorce causes heart disease. Still, people who’ve been through a divorce may want to be extra vigilant about keeping their hearts healthy by avoiding tobacco, eating healthfully, and getting regular exercise.