A broken heart really can kill you
You really can die of a broken heart- a new study shows that people mourning a close relative are 21 times more likely to suffer a heart attack themselves.A “perfect storm” of stress, lack of sleep and forgetting to take regular medication puts mourners at increased risk in the days after losing a loved one.
Scientists showed that after a significant person’s death, heart attack risks increased to 21 times higher than normal within the first day, and were almost six times higher than normal within the first week.
Doctor Murray Mittleman, a preventive cardiologist and epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School in the United States, said: “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 researchers also found that the increased risk of heart attack within the first week after the loss of a significant person ranges from one per 320 people with a high heart attack risk to one per 1,394 people with a low heart attack risk.
The study is the first to focus on heart attack risk during the first few days and weeks after someone close died.
Grieving spouses have higher long-term risks of dying, with heart disease and strokes accounting for up to 53 per cent of deaths, according to previous research.
As part of the Determinants of MI Onset Study, researchers reviewed charts and interviewed patients while in the hospital after a confirmed heart attack between 1989 and 1994.
Patients answered questions about circumstances surrounding their heart attack, as well as whether they recently lost someone significant in their lives over the past year, when the death happened and the importance of their relationship.
The researchers estimated the relative risk of a heart attack by comparing the number of patients who had someone close to them die in the week before their heart attack to the number of deaths of significant people in their lives from one to six months before their heart attack.
Psychological stress such as that caused by intense grief can increase heart rate, blood pressure and blood clotting, which can raise chances of a heart attack.
At the beginning of the grieving process, people are more likely to experience less sleep, low appetite and higher cortisol levels, which can also increase heart attack risks.
Elizabeth Mostofsky, lead author of the research, said grieving people also sometimes neglect regular medications, possibly leading to adverse heart events,
She added: “Friends and family of bereaved people should provide close support to help prevent such incidents, especially near the beginning of the grieving process. Similarly, medical professionals should be aware that the bereaved are at much higher risk for heart attacks than usual.”
Dr Mittleman added: “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.”
Heart attack symptoms include chest discomfort, upper body or stomach pain, shortness of breath, breaking into a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.
However, Dr Mittleman said future studies are needed to make more specific recommendations based on the study which was published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Tags: Doctors, health insurance, Health Professionals, Heart Disease, NHS Deaths, preventable crisis