Broken heart syndrome doesn’t just exist in fairy tales. According to a new study published the Journal of the American Heart Association, heart attack risk is much higher for people in the weeks following the passing of a loved one.
Medical News Today reports that bereavement negatively affects heart health to such an extent, that the day a loved one dies, the risk of a heart attack is 21 times higher.
Researchers came to their conclusions after observing nearly 2,000 adult heart attack survivors who had recently lost a loved one. Although the risk of a heart problem declined during the first month after the person’s loss, it still remained dangerously high during the first week. Specifically, a person suffering from bereavement is six times more likely to have a heart attack during this week than they would ordinarily.
The risk is even worse for people who have lost their spouses. Medical News Today reported that people grieving for their husband or wife are more likely to die in the future, with heart attacks and strokes making up 53 percent of their deaths.
Because of this, researchers warn friends and family of those suffering from heartache to watch for signs of heart failure and encourage relaxation and the continuance of any medication regime they may be on.
“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,” said Murray Mittleman of Harvard medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and School of Public Health.
Researchers did note, however, that broken heart syndrome does not often produce long-lasting health problems and that most people recover without any lingering effect. The study is the first to focus on the effects of heavily emotional events on heart health, Medical News Today said.