Bereavement 'increases heart risk'
Published on 10 January 2012 02:30 PM
Health experts have warned that losing a loved one can increase the risk of a heart attack.
Intense grief can put extra strain on the heart, and researchers said those who have suffered a bereavement should make sure they take care of their own health.
Family and friends should also try to look out for warning signs of heart problems, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, in those who are grieving.
A US study of almost 2,000 people found that the risk of a heart attack is 21 times higher within the first day after losing someone close.
The risk remains six times higher than normal within the first week after the bereavement, the researchers found.
The psychological stress was found to raise heart rate, blood pressure and levels of blood clotting. This in turn can increase the likelihood of a heart attack, the researchers said.
Disruption in sleeping and eating patterns, along with self-neglect - such as not bothering to take regular medication - were also found to heighten the risk.
Study leader Dr Murray Mittleman, from Harvard Medical School, said: 'During situations of extreme grief and psychological distress, you still need to take care of yourself and seek medical attention for symptoms associated with a heart attack.
'Caretakers, healthcare providers and the bereaved themselves need to recognise they are in a period of heightened risk in the days and weeks after hearing of someone close dying.'
The findings have been published in the journal Circulation.
Copyright Press Association 2012