Divorce May Cause Heart Problems, Study Suggests

Divorce is associated with all kinds of negative side effects, and heart issues may be one of them. A new Swedish study has determined that people diagnosed with stress-related disorders are more likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular issues.

Researchers examined 137,000 people’s medical reports and analyzed various conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder, and adjustment disorder, which affects those who suffer from divorce, financial difficulties, or the death of a loved one, reports Newsmax.

Researchers noted that the findings do not conclusively prove that stress disorders cause heart problems. However, Simon Bacon, co-director of the Montreal Behavioral Medicine Center and author of an editorial published alongside the study, said there is an explanation of why stress may contribute to heart complications.

First, other research has shown a connection between depression and other mental health problems with cardiovascular issues. Stress, including the kind brought on by divorce, may directly or indirectly impact cardiovascular health. For instance, stress can adversely affect the nervous system, which is responsible for blood pressure, heart rate and blood clotting.

Second, there’s a tendency for some people with mental health conditions to stop taking care of themselves, which can lead to health problems, including heart issues.

While divorce may trigger a heart condition, Bacon noted it’s much less likely than if someone is a smoker, for example. Still, stress-related disorders should be addressed to overcome a trauma or challenging life event such as divorce.

The study also factored in income, education, and other mental health diagnoses. One notable finding: people with stress disorders were seven times more likely to experience heart failure than their siblings.

Dr. Salim Virani, a cardiologist at Baylor College of Medicine and the DeBakey VA Medical Center, in Houston, told Newsmax that some of these heart failure incidents may be related to “broken-heart” syndrome, which involves shortness of breath, chest pain, and other heart muscle weakness.  However, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what caused heart failure in these particular patients, adding that substance abuse may have also played a role.

Like Bacon, Virani acknowledged that stress disorders can, directly and indirectly, affect the heart.

The Swedish study was led by Huan Song, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Iceland and Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The report was published in the BMJ.

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