Many of us have had our hearts broken. And that’s’ perfectly fine, since if you were able to simply move on after losing a person you love, you’d probably be a sociopath. Still, while being left by the person you love is definitely a traumatic experience (you live and you learn), the death of a loved one is usually far more traumatic and terrifying.
And while “having your heart broken” sounds like it’s a fairly romanticized way of putting it, it turns out that that might actually happen, in a way. According to a team of researchers from the Aarhus University in Denmark, losing a loved one can kill you via broken heart. Literally.
You can die of a broken heart
According to the team of researchers, people who recently lost a partner, within thirty days, are 41 percent more likely to develop arrhythmia or other heartbeat related symptoms than those not mourning a loved one. And the more unexpected the death was, the higher the risk.
Plus, sort of unexpectedly, people; under the age of sixty are at the highest risk, doubling their chances in comparison to other groups. Still, as the saying goes, time does heal a broken heart. So, the irregularities will start tapering off after the first two weeks, with everything returning to normal in about a year.
For the study, published in the Open Heart journal on Tuesday, the research team looked at the medical archives of Danish patients from 1995 to 2014. Out of the 88,612 cases of people diagnosed with atrial fibrillations, 17,478 had lost a loving partner in the past year. The team also went over data from the Danish Civil Registration System.
The team was able to determine whether the patients lived with the partner or not, if they had died recently, how long after the partner’s death the atrial fibrillations began, if the surviving partner died from the condition, how old they were, and even how unexpected the partner’s death was.
Even if they managed to gather so much information, the fact that the study was a meta-analysis didn’t really allow the team to pinpoint the physiological mechanism responsible for their discovery. They do have some pretty plausible theories, none of them actually confirmable, however.
One idea would be that the partner’s death affected basic hormonal processes that can alter a heartbeat (like adrenalin. Another theory would be that the acute mental stress caused an imbalance in the part of the nervous system responsible for controlling the heart rate and the electrical pathways that run through the heart.
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