A Broken Heart Does Increase Heart Attack Risk

Heart attack risk is significantly heightened in the first week after the death of a significant other

TUESDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- The death of a significant person in someone's life is associated with a significantly increased risk of acute myocardial infarction (MI) for the grieving individual in the days following the death, according to a study published online Jan. 9 in Circulation.

Elizabeth Mostofsky, M.P.H., Sc.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues investigated whether intense grief in the days following the death of a significant other can trigger the onset of acute MI. A total of 1,985 participants in the multicenter Determinants of Myocardial Infarction Onset study were interviewed during index hospitalization from 1989 and 1994. The observed number of deaths in the days preceding MI symptom onset was compared with the expected frequency based on each patient's control information (the occurrence of deaths in the period from one to six months prior to the MI).

The researchers found that 13.6 percent of participants had experienced the loss of a significant person in the preceding six months, including 19 deaths within one day of their MI. There was a 21.1-fold increase in the incidence rate of acute MI onset for the 24 hours following the death of a significant person, which decreased progressively on each subsequent day.

"Grief over the death of a significant person was associated with an acutely increased risk of MI in the subsequent days," the authors write.

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