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Fast heart rate, rhythm problems found in bereaved

Reuters, November 15, 2010

Heart attacks and sudden cardiac death have previously been associated with recent bereavement, but previous research has not been able to explain the link, or why the risk appears to wane over time.

In the new study, 24-hour heart monitors and other tests enabled researchers to document increases in heart rate and reduced heart rate variability -- a measure of the heart's rhythmic regularity.

The study showed bereaved patients had almost twice the number of episodes of rapid heartbeats, or tachycardia -- 2.23 episodes vs. 1.23 episodes -- than non-bereaved participants in the first weeks after the family member's death. But after six months, their numbers were lower than the non-bereaved volunteers.

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