By Alice Park
Grief is a powerful emotion, and the latest research shows just how damaging it can be, especially for the heart.
The sobering results, appearing in the journal Circulation, are the first to compare how grief affects an individual’s heart-disease risk within a period of time. Previous studies have documented that people losing loved ones tend to have more heart problems than those who aren’t bereaved. In the current analysis, lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky and her colleagues took a unique approach by calculating an individual’s “average loss” of loved ones over a year, by asking how many people study participants had lost in the past year and comparing that figure to the number of loved ones that same person lost during the study period in question, which included the most recent day and week preceding a heart attack. Because all the participants were heart-attack patients, that allowed her to calculate the effect that losing a loved one had on each individual’s heart-attack risk.