Dying of a broken heart > The death of a loved one raises the risk of a heart attack by 21 times in the first 24 hours, according to a new study. The researchers also found that mourners are six times more likely than normal to have an attack in the first week of bereavement.
The study has found that psychological stress, such as that caused by intense grief, can increase heart rate, blood pressure and blood clotting, which raise the chances of a coronary thrombosis.
At the beginning of the grieving process, people are more likely to experience less sleep, low appetite and higher cortisol levels, which can also increase the risks.
Broken Heart Syndrome
The study also found that the chances of having what has become known as ‘broken heart syndrome’, depend on someone’s general state of health. The risk was strongest among people who had pre-existing risk factors for heart disease and heart attacks, such as high blood pressure or unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Of course, Tonic’s therapists speak to many callers who are going through the bereavement process, but this research shows how devastating the impact of the death of someone close to you can be.
To quote C.S. Lewis, “The death of a beloved is an amputation.” By talking more openly about dying, death and bereavement, society can make it easier to provide support to people who have lost someone close to them and can ensure their own health does suffer.
Footnote > The study, carried out as part of the multi-centre Determinants of MI Onset Study, is the first to examine heart attack risk in the immediate aftermath of a bereavement; this is linked to Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.