Losing Loved One Increases Heart Attack Risk
 

- Reported, January 12, 2012



 

 HeartAttackRisk(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Losing a close loved one, spouse, child, sibling, parent, or a friend is never easy. Now new research suggests that the days and weeks following the death of a close loved may increase one’s risk of having a heart attack.

Psychological stress caused by intense grief can increase heart rate, blood pressure and blood clotting, which can raise the chance of a heart attack. Murray Mittleman, M.D., Dr. P.H., a preventative cardiologist and epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and School of Public health’s epidemiology department in Boston, Massachusetts and colleagues performed the first study to focus on heart attack risk during the first few days and weeks after the death of someone close. The study consisted of 1, 985 adult heart attack survivors who suffered their heart attack after losing a significant person. The study discovered that heart risks were 21 times higher than normal within the first day; almost six times higher than normal within the first week; and continued to decline steadily over the first month following the death.

In an earlier research, as part of the Multicenter Determinants of MI Onset Study, researchers reviewed charts and interviewed patients while in the hospital after suffering a confirmed heart attack between 1989 and 1994. The patients answered several questions concerning the circumstances surrounding their heart attack, as well as, whether they recently lost someone significant in the past year, and the importance of that relationship. The researchers used a case crossover design to compare patients over the past six months. The approach eliminated the possible confounding factors of comparing different people. They also eliminated 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. These researchers also found that grieving spouses have a much higher long-term risks of dying with heart disease or strokes, accounting for up to 53 percent of deaths.

Mittleman and his colleagues 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.

"Caretakers, healthcare providers, and the bereaved themselves need to recognize they are in a period of heightened risk in the days and weeks after hearing of someone close dying," Mittleman was quoted as saying. Also at the beginning of the grieving process, people tend to neglect to properly taking care of themselves, often experiencing higher levels of cortisol, sleeping less, not eating correctly or not eating at all, or forgetting to take their necessary medications.

"Friends and family of bereaved people should provide close support to help prevent such incidents, especially near beginning of the grieving process," Elizabeth Mostofsky, one of Mittleman colleagues and the lead author of the research, was quoted as saying.

Similarly, medical professionals should be aware that the bereaved are at much higher risk for heart attacks than usual.

SOURCE: American Heart Association Journal Report, January 2012
 

- WF Team