LONDON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- It only takes a couple spins of a country music record or a quick stroll down Beale Street to learn that lost or unrequited love can make a heart ache. But according to researchers, it can also kill.
A new study showed that losing a partner doubles the grieving survivor's chance of a heart attack or stroke.
"We often use the term a 'broken heart' to signify the pain of losing a loved one and our study shows that bereavement can have a direct effect on the health of the heart," explained Dr. Sunil Shah, a public health professor at St. George's University of London and co-author of the new study.
Thankfully, the increased health risk doesn't last forever. Though grief may last much, much longer, the heightened probability of a heart attack or stroke -- according to researchers -- begins to wane after a month of bereavement.
The increased stress of burying a significant other is certainly part of the problem. But researchers at St. George's said patients are also more likely to forget to take their medications -- cholesterol meds like statins and other blood-thinners.
"We think it is important that doctors, friends and family are aware of this increase risk of heart attacks and strokes," said Dr. Shah, "so they can ensure care and support is as good as possible at a time of increased vulnerability before and after loss of a loved one."
The new study is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
[St. George's University of London] [JAMA Internal Medicine]