Grieving over the death of a loved one can take a heavy toll on the heart, at least in those first days and weeks after the loss, a new study suggests.
Research published Monday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Circulation, found the risk of a heart attack following the loss of a significant person’s death was 21 times higher than normal during the first week after the loss, then declined progressively over the first month.
During the first week after the loss, the risk of a heart attack was still six times higher than normal, researchers found.
The study included 1,985 adult heart attack survivors and was the first to focus on heart attack risk during the first few days and weeks after someone close died, according to an American Heart Association news release.
The bereaved, their caretakers and health care providers need to recognize this period of heightened risk for a grieving person right after a loss of someone close, advised Dr. Murray Mittleman, a preventive cardiologist and epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and School of Public Health’s epidemiology department in Boston.
Some factors mentioned about the link between grief and a heightened heart attack risk: Intense grief can raise the heart rate, blood pressure and blood clotting. At the beginning of grief, people are more likely to sleep less, lose their appetite and have a higher cortisol level.
And grieving people can sometimes fail to take their regular medications, Elizabeth Mostofsky, lead author of the research, said in the news release.