Researchers have long shown that the physical stress caused by the grief of losing someone close to you has physical effects, most notably on the heart. This new heart study was unique because it focused on patients’ “average loss” over the previous year. The methods used allowed Elizabeth Mostofsky, lead author of the study, to calculate the effect of grief on each patient’s individual heart attack risk.
The results of the study showed that a day after losing a loved one, your risk of a heart attack goes up 21 times. And the week after, you’re risk is still 6 times higher. The good news is that your heart starts to repair the damage that it experiences during the intense grief of that first month or so, and your risk of heart attack actually goes down as the symptoms of broken heart syndrome subside.
Intense grief — to view it from a medical perspective — is a significant health event. You might stop eating or eat large amounts of comfort food. You don’t sleep well or at all. You might skip important medications or try self-medicating with alcohol or prescription drugs. Exercise and other healthy, mood-lifting habits go out the window, too. I can see all of that adding up to a perfect storm for bad health consequences.
Hopefully, more studies like this will shed light on specific actions that grieving families can take to help reduce the physical stress of grief, including preventing long term damage to our heart health and mental health.
Have you or someone close to you experience health problems after grieving the death of a loved one? Share your experience with us.
image by The Inquisitr