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Study Looks At Health Impact Of Losing A Sibling

(Credit: JOHN MACDOUGALL/Getty Images)

(Credit: JOHN MACDOUGALL/Getty Images)

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By Dr. Brian McDonough

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Can losing a sibling increase your risk of a heart attack?

When a person loses a spouse there’s about a 20 to 53-percent increased risk of what is called an “excess death”. That’s a death that occurs more than a statistical average. Many of these deaths are the result of a heart attack.

It is certainly the stress that can play a role. We also know that a similar thing can happen when someone loses a child. Once again, the stress can be great.

But what about if a sibling dies? Will you have an increased risk of a heart attack? According to a new study in the American Heart Association Journal the loss of a brother or sister does not appear to cause that increased risk of heart attack.

However, it does suggest that several years down the road there is an increase risk. The reason there might be the fact that there is a genetic increase because the heart attacks can run in the family.