Can losing a partner literally break your heart?

Being broken-hearted has been the topic of films and song titles for generations, but could there actually be more truth in the claim than first thought?

Danish researchers have found that people who’ve experienced the death of a partner are more prone to developing an irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation. This is a health condition that’s linked to heart failure and stroke.

People under the age of 60 were found to be the most at risk, perhaps because the loss of a partner is least expected. Individuals whose partner was relatively healthy in the month leading up to their death were 57% more prone to suffering from atrial fibrillation.

Developing an irregular heartbeat for the first time was 41% more likely for those who’d lost a partner than those who hadn’t.

The condition can last for up to a year after the bereavement, but the risk is greatest between 8 and 14 days after the death.

What types of heart health screening are available?

Booking an appointment for a health assessment is something you should do on a regular basis, whether you’re at risk of atrial fibrillation or not. However, there are specific screening options available if you are particularly concerned about your heart health.

CT calcium heart scan

You might decide to undergo a private CT scan, where a cardiologist will take a closer look at your heart to detect signs of coronary artery disease. They will be looking out for calcium deposits in your coronary arteries, which can cause them to narrow and increase the possibility of a heart attack.

ECG scan

You may also be offered an ECG scan at your private health check. The electrocardiogram (ECG) will record your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity to determine whether there are any abnormalities. The scan can also find the cause of problems such as breathing difficulties, chest pains and palpitations.

Stress ECG

Do you often find yourself running out of breath or experiencing chest pain while you exercise? If the answer is yes, you might be advised to undergo this special type of screening. The exercise stress and tolerance test – otherwise known as a stress ECG – will monitor your heart while you carry out certain physical activities. The readings are then analysed by a doctor, who will be able to offer a diagnosis.

Blood pressure monitoring

Another risk factor for heart failure and heart disease is high blood pressure. Some patients are recommended for 24-hour blood pressure monitoring when they go for their full health check. This will give a more accurate representation of how your heart works over a whole day, giving your doctor the opportunity to make a correct diagnosis before prescribing any medication you might need.


If your doctor needs to look more closely at the structure of your heart, it’s likely they will recommend an echocardiogram. By looking at the size and shape of your heart and its valves this can identify various issues, from heart disease to fluid build-ups, to murmurs and infected valves.

Book an appointment with one of our highly experienced private cardiologists today, with no waiting lists and no GP referral needed.