Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor) Feb 10 2020
The increased risk of heart attack or "a broken heart" in early bereavement could be reduced by using common medication in a novel way, according to a world-first study led by the University of Sydney and funded by Heart Research Australia.
Lead Investigator Professor Geoffrey Tofler said while most people gradually adjust to the loss of a loved one, there is an increase in heart attack and death among bereaved people, particularly those grieving a spouse or child.
"The increased risk of heart attack can last up to six months. It is highest in the first days following bereavement and remains at four times the risk between seven days to one month after the loss."
The study, published in the American Heart Journal , is the first randomized controlled clinical trial to show it is possible to reduce several cardiac risk factors during this time, without adversely affecting the grieving process.
"Bereavement following the death of a loved one is one of the most stressful experiences to which almost every human is exposed," said Professor Tofler, Professor of Preventative Cardiology at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Medicine and Health, and Senior Staff Cardiologist at Royal North Shore Hospital.
"Our study is the first clinical trial to examine how the cardiac risk factors could be mitigated during early bereavement." About the study
The research team from the University of Sydney, Royal North Shore Hospital and the Kolling Institute enrolled 85 spouses or parents in the study within two weeks of losing their family member.
Forty-two participants received low daily doses of a beta blocker and aspirin for six weeks, while 43 were given placebos. Heart rate and blood pressure were carefully monitored, and blood tests assessed blood clotting changes.
The main finding was that the active medication, used in a low dose once a day, successfully reduced spikes in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as demonstrating some positive change in blood clotting tendency." Professor Geoffrey Tofler, lead investigator
The investigators also carefully monitored the grief reaction of participants.
"We were reassured that the medication had no adverse effect on the psychological responses, and indeed lessened symptoms of anxiety and depression," said Professor Tofler. Related Stories
Also in Industry News
How to decide whether or not to start treatment for prostate cancer?
Analysis of the SARS-CoV-2 proteome via visual tools
$65m investment increases British Patient Capital’s exposure to life sciences and health technology