Harvard Health Letter

Grieving may trigger heart attack

The dangers of a broken heart aren't just for poets and songwriters. Turns out, the risk of heart attack is 21 times higher than normal the first day after the death of a significant loved one and six times higher the first week, according to a study published in the January 9, 2012, Circulation.

"Grieving people are not getting enough sleep and are walking around with elevated levels of adrenaline and stress-related hormones," says Dr. Thomas Lee, a cardiologist and a professor at Harvard Medical School. "These tendencies can lead to increased clamping down of one's arteries, a faster heart rate and elevated blood pressure, all of which can increase the chance of a rupture of atherosclerotic plaques, causing a heart attack."

But everyone can be proactive about their health, even in difficult times.

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