If your brother or sister dies, it is not only a very sad occasion, but it also affects your health, according to a new health study. Researchers found that after a sibling dies, your risk of dying from a heart attack may increase.
What happens is that the body’s coping mechanisms for this stressful event may actually trigger a heart attack, known clinically as a myocardial infarction. The results show that this is more likely to happen if you’ve been mourning the loss for an extended period of time, such as many years in a row.
This population study, hailing from Sweden, comprises health information on about 1.6 million adults. It is the largest of its kind to link heart attack deaths with the death of a sibling. The following were interesting findings from the study:
• Sisters were 25% more likely to die from heart attack after a sibling’s death; brothers were 15% more likely.
• There was no increased risk of heart attack in the weeks following a sibling’s death, suggesting the passage of time can allow stress and mourning to build.
• If the sibling died of heart attack, the risk of the same thing happening to a brother rose 98% and to a sister 62%.
PLUS: Are rising divorce rates causing more heart attacks?
The problem, speculate the researchers, is that people may fall into unhealthy lifestyle habits after losing a sibling. Not exercising, drinking too much, taking up smoking again, and not caring about diet could put your heart at risk. Plus, the long-lasting effects of stress as the months roll on can take a toll on the heart. Finally, the obvious genetic link could be at work, as siblings may face similar health risks.
This is important to know for anyone who loses a close family member. Watch out for yourself, try to limit stress and don’t fall into an unhealthy lifestyle due to bereavement. Most of all, work with others to help with stress management, as the effects can be very significant.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
A Sudden Loss Could Mean Worse Health for You
Rostila, M., et al., “Mortality From Myocardial Infarction After the Death of a Sibling: A Nationwide Follow-up Study From Sweden,” Journal of the American Heart Association; published online February 27, 2013.