(HealthDay News) — For elderly adults, the death of a partner is associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke, as well as other rarer cardiovascular events, according to a study published online February 24 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Iain M. Carey, PhD, from St. George’s University of London, and colleagues quantified the risk of cardiovascular events after partner bereavement in a matched cohort study. Data were collected from a U.K. primary care database for 30,447 individuals aged 60–89 years who experienced partner bereavement during follow-up and 83,588 age-, sex-, and general practice-matched nonbereaved controls. The rate of cardiovascular events was compared between the groups.

The researchers found that 0.16% of the bereaved group experienced MI or stroke within 30 days of their partner’s death, compared with 0.08% of matched nonbereaved controls during the same period (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 2.20). The elevated risk, which was attenuated after 30 days, was seen for bereaved men and women. On analysis of the individual outcomes, elevated risk was found for MI and stroke separately (IRR, 2.14 and 2.40, respectively). Furthermore, in the first 90 days after bereavement, there were elevated risks of rarer cardiovascular events, including non-MI acute coronary syndrome (IRR, 2.20) and pulmonary embolism (IRR, 2.37).

“A better understanding of psychosocial factors associated with acute cardiovascular events may provide opportunities for prevention and improved clinical care,” the authors write.

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