Monday, April 07, 2014

Cardiovascular Risk Increases After Losing Loved One!

When someone who is loved passed away, the survivors would be grieved over his or her death. They might have loss of sleep and appetite over a period of time. All this could have aggravated existing underlying medical conditions.

A study of old folks revealed that the risk of heart attack was double in the 30 days following the loss of a partner, and stroke risk rose 2.4 times over that of similarly aged people who had not sustained a loss. The findings were published online February 24, 2014 in the ‘Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine’.

After comparing 30,447 bereaved patients to 83,588 who were matched in age and gender but had not lost a partner, the British researchers from St George’s University of London and Brunel University found that the risk of heart attack and stroke was highest in the month after the loss and the risk declined slowly over the following year.

The participants, who aged between 60 and 89, were taken from a United Kingdom primary care database containing available data of 401 general practices from February 2005 through September 2012.

As a matter of fact, evidence from other studies have already shown that bereavement and grief could lead to a range of adverse physiological responses, including changes in blood clotting, blood pressure, stress hormone levels and heart rate control. All these would possibly contribute to a higher risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke after loss of a partner.

While the actual reasons have yet to be determined, there are some explanations available. For instance, some studies have indicated that intense stress could activate the ‘fight or flight’ response that could trigger a surge of epinephrine, adrenaline and cortisol. When at low and medium doses, these hormones are good because they cause the heart pump harder and faster. People might need this in many situations, for instance, when they are doing exercise. But in some people, very high doses of adrenaline have a toxic effect on the heart.

In addition, people’s daily schedules could be interrupted, for example, they might forget to take their medications, stop eating right or do some harmful things like drinking or eating too much. Changes like these could undoubtedly raise the risk of heart attack.

Hence, it is important that doctors, friends and family members are aware of this increased risk so that they can make sure that care and support is as good as possible, especially in the first month following bereavement when stress levels are particularly high.

Meanwhile, the survivors should look after themselves and if they are having trouble coping, they should seek help from their doctors who will be able to advise on any health issues or offer any further support that they might need.

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