Harvard Health Letter

Mind your own health after the death of a partner

Taking care of yourself might be the last thing you would think about after the death of a partner. But a study published Feb. 24, 2014, in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that it may be a matter of life and death. Researchers found that a person's risk of heart attack or stroke rose in the first 30 days after a partner's death. The finding provides a time window to the risk that's been known for a long time—that the death of a partner is associated with a range of cardiovascular events. What is it about the first 30 days after the loss of a partner that's so risky? Researchers point to short-term changes in blood pressure, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and changes in heart rate. So it's important to remember your own needs if you've lost a loved one. Eat a healthy diet, get some exercise every day, take your medicine, maintain social connections, and join a grief support group or get grief counseling.

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