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The science of a broken heart

A broken ceramic heart pictured in Berlin on January 7, 2010.
A broken ceramic heart pictured in Berlin on January 7, 2010.
John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

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As painful as it is to have a broken heart, there has always been some small comfort in knowing that it is only a feeling, and thus would pass. However, according to a new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and published January 9th online in the journal Circulation, an unlucky few are prone to a higher risk of heart attack in the weeks after a loved one passes, 21 times greater on the day of a loved one’s death. And it’s not just the case for those who are already at a higher risk for heart failure: apparently, one out of 1400 people who are considered low risk can suffer increased heart problems due to bereavement, too. In light of the new information, the American Heart Association stresses that people dealing with loss lean on whatever emotional support systems they have available, not just for their mental health, but their overall physical health as well.


Elizabeth Mostofsky, research fellow, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center