Divorce Can Literally Break Your Heart, According To Research

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How Women Can Prevent Broken Heart Syndrome & Decrease Risk Of Heart Attack After Divorce

Everybody knows that divorce is stressful, and it's important to actively work to reduce stress after a breakup. But what nobody knew until now is that divorce actually increases a woman's risk of heart attack.

A 2015 report in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes says that (after correcting for other risk factors) women who have been divorced once have a 24 percent increased risk of heart attack. For women divorced two or more times, this jumps to a startling 77 percent increased risk.

Besides heart attack, divorce can also increase a woman's risk of Broken Heart Syndrome, which, in some cases, mimics a heart attack. According to the Mayo Clinic, Broken Heart Syndrome results from "the heart's reaction to a surge of stress hormones."

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Given these two bits of data from heart specialists, I believe the best way to prevent yourself from becoming another statistic is to effectively deal with stress after your divorce. How do you do that?

Try my top five tips for how to reduce stress during your divorce:

1. Develop soothing routines

Nearly everything about your life changes when you get divorced — including the time you used to spend doing activities that calmed you. It's time to start doing them again.

If that's not possible, develop new soothing activities. This doesn't mean you need to get daily massages (although wouldn't that be nice!). You might find great peace in everyday activities that have recently slipped through the cracks. I know one woman who grooms her eyebrows when she needs to relax and another who takes several deep breaths.

2. Be active

The hormones released when you're feeling stressed give you energy. (You've probably noticed you feel jittery when you're stressed.) Getting active by walking, exercising, dancing, or even punching a pillow will help you use up that excess energy.

It's also been proven that exercise can help reduce anxiety and stress. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise produces brain chemicals called endorphins that improve your mood and help you feel better all around.

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3. Be kind to yourself

Yes, even if you don't feel like it, you still need to take care of yourself. Make sure you're eating, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and generally treating yourself as the amazing person you are.

4. Build your support system

No one should go through a divorce alone. So find the people who can positively support you through the stressful transitions that accompany divorce.

You might also want to limit your contact with the people (like your ex) who bring you down or stress you out.

5. Grieve your relationship

This is a biggie. We all tend to want to avoid pain, but in this case, you need to carefully push through the painful emotions of divorce so you can heal. Avoiding grief will only prolong your stress

By following these simple tips to reduce stress during a divorce, my belief is you accomplish two important things. First, you decrease your risk for both heart attack and broken heart syndrome. Second, you increase your risk of having a happy and healthy life after your divorce, and that's almost just as important!

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Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and advisor helping people who are considering divorce make a smart decision about staying or leaving their marriage. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or email her for a free consultation.