Confirmed: You really can die of a broken heart

In a large new study, scientists have confirmed what the medical world has long suspected: The so-called broken-heart syndrome is real. The study, published on Monday in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, found that a person’s heart attack risk is 21 times higher than normal the day after a loved one dies.

Over time the risk of an attack declines, but it remains elevated within that first month. In the first week after a loved one’s death, for example, the risk was six times higher than normal, said Elizabeth Mostofsky, the lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral research fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

“If a bereaved person is having symptoms like chest pain, they shouldn’t simply say, ‘Oh, I’m dealing with the stress right now’ and ignore it,” she said.