Widowers more likely to die from heart conditions

Widowed and divorced men are more at risk of dying from serious heart conditions than women according to new research.

Senior man during medical examination

The findings which will be presented today at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference, found stark differences in the death rates of men and women in relation to marital status, when living with heart failure, atrial fibrillation (AF) or after a heart attack.

Surviving some of the most common heart and circulatory diseases may be impacted by your gender and marital status.

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Widowers who suffer a heart attack are 11 per cent more likely to die than widows according to the research from Aston University, Birmingham.

Similar findings were found amongst widowed men with heart failure (10 per cent) and AF (13 per cent) compared to widowed women with the same conditions.

Divorced men with AF were 14 per cent more likely to die than divorced women.

The researchers also found among married people with AF, the most common form of abnormal heart rhythm, men had a 6 per cent higher risk of dying than women. The situation is quite different for those who aren’t married. The team discovered that single men with heart failure actually had a 13 per cent lower risk of death compared to single women.

This study follows previous work suggesting that being married may improve the chances of surviving a heart attack, and this is particularly the case for women. By studying 1,816,230 people admitted to hospitals in the north of England with a heart attack, heart failure or AF between 2000 and 2014, the researchers were able to see how marital status or gender may affect the long term risk of dying from these life threatening conditions over a 14 year period.

Dr Rahul Potluri, who led the study, hopes that, by going one step further and understanding how these differences in marital status may affect survival in men and women, the team will not only help identify people in need of extra support but also help improve the way support is provided.

Dr Potluri, clinical lecturer in cardiology at Aston Medical School, said: “When it comes to helping people recover from a life-threatening heart condition, focusing solely on their medical problem does not necessarily give the best outcome. It’s important we look into providing holistic care and explore other factors, such as their support network, which can also have a big impact on a person’s health.”

Prof Metin Avkiran at the British Heart Foundation said: “Heart attack, atrial fibrillation and heart failure can all cut life short.

“These findings suggest that widowed or divorced men, and single women, may be most in need of support in order to help minimise their individual risk of dying from these conditions.”