Sure, we all know that when we lose someone we love it hurts but the pain we feel is more than just emotional. When someone we love passes on we feel it on a very real level and that can affect our health big time.

If your spouse has passed you are technically more likely to die of a broken heart, yes you can die from a broken heart. A study I recently came across in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology actually found that people who had lost a spouse in the last three months had higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This being an immune marker that indicates a person is facing inflammation of the bloodstream.

The abstract of this study goes as follows:

The loss of a spouse is a highly stressful event that puts people at excess risk of mortality. Excess mortality among those who are widowed is highest in the first six months after the death of a spouse and decreases over time. Heart disease accounts for the largest proportion of these deaths. The psychological stress associated with stressful life events can enhance inflammation and lower heart rate variability (HRV). Both lower HRV and higher inflammation are risk factors for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Thirty-two recently bereaved individuals (Mean = 89.68 days since death, SD = 17.09) and 33 age-matched comparisons completed a blood draw, EKG, and self-report questionnaires. In both adjusted and unadjusted models, spousal bereavement was associated with enhanced pro-inflammatory cytokine production by in vitro lipolysaccharide-stimulated peripheral blood leukocytes. Moreover, spousal bereavement was associated with lower HRV in comparison to the comparison group. This study is the first to demonstrate that bereavement is associated with a more pronounced ex vivo cytokine production and lower HRV in a population that exclusively consisted of widows and widowers. These findings add to the growing literature revealing the mechanisms that underlie bereavement-related cardiovascular problems. Future longitudinal studies are needed to determine the temporal relation between these risks. Understanding the biological mechanisms that underlie this stressful life event could allow researchers to create therapeutic targets for interventions to reduce or prevent the toll of a “broken heart.”

Chris Fagundes an assistant professor of psychology in Rice’s School of Social Sciences, as well as the study’s lead author, said in a statement that this study was very important in understanding why the increase of cardiovascular disease does happen. He said that this adds to a very growing number of studies hoping to begin understanding on a deeper level how bereavement can impact heart health. Those who participated in this study were said to have an almost 50 percent increased risk of mortality within the first six months of losing a spouse.

For more on the effects of our emotions on our health please check out the video below. There is a lot more to our health than we realize. The things going on emotionally really do impact our bodies as a whole.

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