A recent study has found a plausible connection between the anniversary of a parent’s demise and “sudden death.” The study, which was reported at the American College of Cardiology meeting, observed 102 sudden death patients between 37 and 79 years of age. Out of these patients 12.7% of the deaths occurred on the anniversary of their parents’ death. Additionally, four of the patients were the same age as their parent when they died.
The study confirms the idea of a mind body connection, that the mind and body are integrally connected systems affecting one another. One of the greatest discoveries about the mind body connection is that one’s mental state can affect the physical body. Sudden death is perhaps one extreme example of this phenomenon. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:
Physicians, he said, should ask patients about the deaths of close family members and should take action to prevent sudden death, including psychological therapy, stress reduction, behavior modification, management of cardiovascular risk factors, and treatment with medications like beta-blockers or aspirin.
Recently, psychological and chronobiological factors — including the anniversary effect — have been identified as triggers for sudden death or lethal arrhythmia, he said. So he and colleagues examined the life circumstances surrounding the 102 sudden deaths in patients ages 37 to 79.
More than two-thirds (68%) of the cases had underlying coronary artery disease.
Seven patients died on the anniversary of their father’s death, five on the anniversary of their mother’s death, and one on the anniversary of the deaths of both parents.
“One of the worries we have is that with death we often grieve, and in some cultures we don’t grieve openly,” commented Janet Wright, M.D., a vice president for science and quality at the ACC, who moderated the session at which the results were discussed. “We’re stoic about it. That sublimated grief can turn into depression, depression can lead to stopping medicines, withdrawing from friends, becoming more isolated, and we know that those factors all contribute to cardiac events.”