Grief increases heart attack, stroke risks

Q: My father died suddenly two weeks ago, and our family is in total shock.

To put it bluntly, we are in chaos and confusion.

We’re especially concerned about Mom. My parents recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. She is taking it so hard.

What should we be watching out for?

A: Grief can be debilitating and, according to recent research, dangerous.

Risk of a heart attack or stroke increases during the 30 days following the death of a partner, at least for seniors, according to a study released in an edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.

Dr. Iain M. Carey, of St. George’s University of London, and colleagues compared the rate of heart attack or stroke in 30,447 patients (60 to 89 years of age) whose partner died to that of 83,588 individuals whose partners were still alive during the same period.

Fifty patients (0.16 percent) experienced a heart attack or stroke within 30 days of their partner’s death. In the control group 67 people (0.08 percent) suffered these events.

This increased risk of heart attack or stroke in bereaved men and women diminished after 30 days.

“We have described a marked increase in cardiovascular risk in the month after spousal bereavement, which seems likely to be the result of negative responses associated with acute grief,” the authors concluded.

Death of a spouse is a life-changing event. Encourage your mother to see her doctor.

If you or a sibling are available, you could ask Mom if she would like someone to go along with her.

It might help to have a family member there to explain what’s happened and describe how she is feeling.

Her physician could recommend any number of treatments from counseling to medication.

Since your mother is not accustomed to being alone, ask if she would like someone to stay with her for a while.

A family member or trusted friend could provide the support and encouragement to get her through those first days without your father.

Or, if no family are available or nearby to assist, contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office for more information about how companionship support could help.

CAREGivers are available from a few hours a week to 24/7 to assist older adults in their homes.

For more information about the study, visit

For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact DeLauter at 866-522-6533 or visit

DeLauter is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Lewisburg, which serves Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Lycoming, Clinton, Montour and Columbia counties.