Bereavement Ups Heart Attack & Stroke Risk

We really can die of a broken heart – or at least suffer serious adverse health events. The risk of having a heart attack or stroke increases significantly during the 30 days after a partner’s death, according to a study done at St. Georges College in London and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on February 24th 2014.

A release from the publisher notes that the authors compared the rate of myocardial infarction (MI, heart attack) or stroke in patients 60 to 89 years of age whose partner died to that of people whose partners were still alive during the same period.

Twice as many patients who were grieving the loss of a partner experienced MI or stroke within 30 days of the partner’s death as did the controls. However, the increased risk of MI or stroke in bereaved men and women lessened after 30 days.

“We have described a marked increase in cardiovascular risk in the month after spousal bereavement, which seems likely to be the result of adverse physiological responses associated with acute grief. A better understanding of psychosocial factors associated with acute cardiovascular events may provide opportunities for prevention and improved clinical care,” the authors wrote.

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