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Broken heart warning on grief

Tuesday January 10th, 2012

People who die from grief are said to have died from a "broken heart" - and now researchers have set out the physical risks linked to bereavement.

The study shows the risk of a heart attack increases by six times in the week following a bereavement - if the bereaved has already had a previous heart attack.

And for the first 24 hours after the death of a loved one, it increases by 21 times.

The findings, reported in the journal Circulation, come from a study of nearly 2,000 people who had already survived a heart attack.

Researchers say the risks may come from the effects of psychological stress after bereavement - including increases in heart rate, blood pressure and blood clotting.

The bereaved will also suffer loss of sleep and appetite, they say.

Researcher Dr Murray Mittleman, of Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 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."

British experts warned that heart patients who suffer loss need to be encouraged to take their medication.

Professor Peter Wiessberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said: "We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that heart attacks triggered by stress normally only happen in people with underlying heart disease.

"It’s very important that if you’re taking medication because you have, or are at high risk of, heart disease, don’t neglect taking it following a significant bereavement.”

Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction After the Death of a Significant Person in One’s Life. Elizabeth Mostofsky et al. Circulation January 2012 doi;10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.061770

Tags: General Health | Heart Health | Mental Health | North America | UK News

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