Whether you’re married, divorced, or going through your first break-up, losing a partner dramatically increases your risk for heart damage. Do you know the warning signs?

By Margo Mae, DiscoverHealing Staff

In the middle of a heartbreaking situation? It might be time to get your heart checked, says a groundbreaking study published in cardiovascular medical journal OpenHeart. The nineteen-year study by Aarhus University examined over 900,000 medical records to conclude that the recent death of a partner increases your risk of developing an irregular heartbeat by 41%. And the more sudden the death, the higher the risk.

“Stress has long been linked to arrhythmia in the heart, and the acute stress of losing your partner in life constitutes one of the biggest impacts of psychological stress one would experience,” said lead researcher Simon Graff. “We wanted to examine that association.”

Subjects under age sixty were more likely to develop an irregular heartbeat than their older counterparts. The greatest risk occurred 8-14 days after their partner’s death, and gradually diminished over the following year.

Not married? You’re not exempt. A 2015 study by Duke University attested that divorce can increase your chances of having a heart attack by 24%, and a 2011 study by the University of Michigan confirmed that physical pain and romantic break-ups activate identical regions of the brain.

Chest pain and shortness of breath: An emotionally-stressful event can cause a surge of stress hormones that lead to severe, short-term heart muscle failure. Aptly-named “Broken Heart Syndrome,” it is often misdiagnosed as a heart attack.

Irregular or rapid heartbeat: Random electrical activity can interrupts the heart’s normal rhythm, causing it to beat irregularly and too fast. While it isn’t immediately life-threatening, “atrial fibrillation” can lead to chronic fatigue, heart failure, and a five times higher risk of stroke.

Stomach pain or loss of appetite: During the stress of a breakup or divorce, the body is flooded with cortisol. The excess of this hormone diverts blood from your digestive system and often results in stomach trouble.

While you often can’t control the outcome of a relationship, you can control your emotional response. Use The Emotion Code and The Body Code to see if Trapped Emotions or Heart-Walls are impacting your heart’s health. Practice stress-reducing activities like relaxation, meditation, and positive self-talk, or consult with a trusted medical professional. Taking small steps now can ensure in a happy, healthy heart for years to come.

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Learn more about heart health!

Webinar: “The Heart Wall”

Article: “Healing the Heart in Divorce”

Testimonial: “Heart Palpitations and Panic Attacks Vanish!”


American Heart Association (2014) Four Ways to Deal with Stress. American Heart Association. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/FourWaystoDealWithStress/Four-Ways-to-Deal-with-Stress_UCM_307996_Article.jsp#emergency

American Heart Association (2016). Is Broken Heart Syndrome Real? American Heart Association. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/Cardiomyopathy/Is-Broken-Heart-Syndrome-Real_UCM_448547_Article.jsp#.V1H0zkpHarUd%10__%02

American Heart Association (2016). What is Atrial Fibrillation? American Heart Association. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_300294.pdf

Graff, Fenger-Grøn, Christensen, Pedersen, Christensen, Li & Vestergaard (2016). Long-term risk of atrial fibrillation after the death of a partner. OpenHeart, 3. Retrieved from http://openheart.bmj.com/content/3/1/e000367

Nelson, Jennifer (2011) Dumped? How to heal the health effects of a broken heart. Today. Retrieved from http://www.today.com/health/dumped-how-heal-health-effects-broken-heart-2D80555168

Netburn, Deborah (2016) Losing a partner can literally break your heart. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-partner-death-heartache-20160405-story.html

Park, Alice (2015). What Divorce Does to Women’s Heart Health. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://time.com/3821251/divorce-heart-attack/

University of Michigan (2011). Study illuminates the ‘pain’ of social rejection. Phys.Org. Retrieved from http://phys.org/news/2011-03-illuminates-pain-social.html