New research suggests dealing with the loss of a loved one really could break your heart.
We are bombarded by old wives’ tales about people who never recover after the death of their true love, but now it seems that bereaved individuals are at a greater risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for a year after the loss. This condition is known as atrial fibrillation and can heighten the chances of having a stroke or heart failure, with certain individuals more than 40 per cent more likely to develop this than someone who hasn’t experienced such grief.
Researchers in Denmark examined data from 89,000 people diagnosed with atrial fibrillation between 1995 and 2014. This was then compared to health records collected from 886,000 healthy people. They discovered that 17,478 people who had been diagnosed with the condition had also lost a partner.
The risk was greater when the death of a partner had been unexpected, while people aged under 60 and dealing with bereavement were more than twice as likely to develop atrial fibrillation.
The study, which was published in U.K. medical journal Open Heart, determined that greatest risk was evident eight to 14 days after the death of a loved one.
“The loss of a partner is considered one of the most severely stressful life events and is likely to affect most people, independently of coping mechanisms,” the scientists, from Aarhus University, wrote in the report.
“In this large population-based study, the severely stressful life event of losing a partner was associated with a transiently increased risk of atrial fibrillation, which lasted for about one year.
Researchers added that the risk was especially high for those who were young and those who lost a relatively healthy partner.
Experts are calling for those dealing with bereavement to be monitored by their GP to see if symptoms develop.