Australian researchers have found that as well causing emotional symptoms, the grief from losing a loved one can lead to physical changes putting people at greater risk of a heart attack.
Researchers at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital found that people who were suffering grief had higher blood pressure, increased heart rate and changes to their immune system, all of which can lead to a heart attack.
Carol Reid knows what it is like to have her heart broken. Her husband of 35 years, Joe, died suddenly in 2006.
She was expecting her pain to be emotional, not physical.
“It was left-sided chest pain and it was strong and I was worried that I was heading for a heart attack,” she said.
Doctors found Ms Reid’s symptoms were real and not a manifestation of her grief.
The Heart Research Foundation’s Dr Thomas Buckley says the study is the first to look in detail at physical changes people experience immediately after losing a loved one.
“We found higher blood pressure, increased heart rate and changes to immune system and clotting that would increase the risk of heart attack,” Dr Buckley said.
One-hundred-and-sixty people were studied, half of them were in mourning.
Researchers found the risk of heart attack increased six-fold for those who had lost a partner or child, and that risk reduced after six months and levelled out after two years.
Researchers also found it was not only older people at risk of heart problems, as the physical changes showed up in people as young as 30.
Future studies will look at the best way to protect the grief stricken from heart attacks.
Something you’ve always known that is just now getting verified by science. If you are getting over a break up, there are some really useful tips out there. I’ve found that taking a trip to a far away place helps, but you can also throw yourself into a creative project. The idea is to overwhelm the mind with new stimuli. Also, you have to eat right and exercise. Sleep will be difficult at first, but keep yourself engaged and day dream about a hopeful future. Don’t talk yourself into an early grave. Destroy those self-destructive tapes with some self-hypnosis if you have them playing.