Australian experts asked people whose relatives had died in hospital two weeks earlier to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours a day in a bid to find out the effects of bereavement on the body.
They found that the average heart rate of the bereaved was 75 beats per minute, compared to a 70.7 average in unaffected volunteers.
This heightened heart rate was also accompanied by double the normal amount of periods of tachycardia (periods where the heartbeat accelerated to higher than normal levels).
Though this alone is not a direct cause of any serious heart problems it is an indicator of stress and anxiety and lead researcher Dr Thomas Buckley is of the belief it may be enough to cause an attack in someone with existing heart disease.
The study also found that six months after the initial bereavement, heart rates had returned to normal.
Dr Richard Stein, from New York University School of Medicine has said this study is an important step in understanding bereavement.
However, Psychiatrist Dr Colin Murray Parkes, an advisor to bereavement charity CRUSE has said it is important that bereaved individuals do not panic if they do feel an increase in their heart rate.
“An increased heart rate can be a perfectly normal response to the anxiety of being bereaved. If you are worried, then consult your doctor, but not with the assumption that anything is wrong.” He said.