Mourning the death of a loved one will increase the risk of heart attack in the days immediately following the death of the loved one. The risk is elevated in the month that follows the loss, according to a new study. According to the researchers, this is the first study to see whether grieving can actually trigger a heart attack. This helps to identify the most vulnerable time for an increased risk to have an attack in the grief-stricken individual.
In this study, published in the journal, Circulation, data collected from 2,000 people hospitalized for a heart attack during the period between 1989 and 1994 was analyzed. Review of their medical charts and interview showed that 270 of them had experienced the death of a loved one just before, or a few months before their hospitalization. Out of these 270 people, 19 of them had lost a loved one just a day before the attack, and most of them did not even have a history of heart attack.
Results of the study show that the risk of heart attack was 21 times more than normal on the first day of the loss. Within the first week of the loss, the risk of heart attack was six times more than normal. This risk decreased steadily during the first month of grief. It is difficult to accept that death of a loved one could be the reason for a heart attack. Researchers suggest that the emotional stress caused by the bereavement may lead to anger, anxiety, and depression, which in turn, may result in heart problems.
The loss of a dear one causes emotional stress, releasing more stress-related hormones, which might increase the heart rate, blood pressure, and the risk of blood clots. Apart from these changes, people often eat and sleep less, smoke more, and forget their medication when they lose a dear one. Researchers feel that these might be the reasons why bereavement can cause an increase in the risk of heart attack.