Death of a partner or a child can change the regular heart rhythms that could be potentially harmful. However, the rhythms resume normalcy within six months, researchers said on Sunday at the annual scientific meeting of the American Heart Association held in Chicago.

“While the focus at the time of bereavement is naturally directed toward the deceased person, the health and welfare of bereaved survivors should also be of concern to medical professionals, as well as family and friends,” said Thomas Buckley, acting director of postgraduate studies at the University of Sydney Nursing School in Sydney, Australia.

Heart attacks and sudden death have been linked with recent tragic incidents in family, but there was no explanation available on why the risk decreases over time.Researchers used 24X7 monitors and other tests to document the variation in heart rates. While, bereaved patients in the first week after a family member’s death had recorded almost twice the number of rapid heartbeats, or tachycardia than non-bereaved participants, it was lower than the non-bereaved participants after six months. The average heart rate for bereaved patients was 75.1 beats per minute initially and that of non-bereaved patients was70.7. But the rate for the bereaved patients was reverted to 70.7 after six months.

"Increased heart rate and reduced heart rate variability in the early months of bereavement are possible mechanisms of increased cardiovascular risk during this often very stressful period," said Buckley, the study's lead researcher.

The study also studied levels of depression and anxiety which increases significantly post the death of a family member, but shows signs of improvement after nearly six months.

While the average depression score in the bereaved was 26.3, it was only 6.3 in the non-bereaved participants. Although, the difference narrowed down after six months, it still remained almost thrice higher than the non-bereaved group.

"While our findings do not establish causality, they are consistent with evidence for psychosocial triggering of cardiovascular events," Buckley said.