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You May Die From a Broken Heart

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The phrase 'Till death do you part' may be a wedding adage, but according to recent research, that's not always the case.

Naked woman sitting in bed

Studies worldwide show people commonly die soon after the death of their spouse.

•One study conducted by the University of Glasgow followed more than 4,000 couples and found that on average, widows and widowers were at least 30% more likely to die in the first six months following a spouse's death than those who hadn't lost a partner.

•And another large study in Jerusalem found the bereaved spouse's risk of death during those first six months rose by up to 50%.

So what's going on? Some experts say grief can be too much for those who already have health problems. While other more spiritual folk say the stronger the bond between two people, the more likely one will follow the other in death.

But there may be medical reasons too: The most common cause of death of a bereaved spouse is a heart attack, which usually occurs 18 months after the death of their partner. And there's the stress factor too: Dramatic events can trigger the release of cortisol, a chemical that can damage health.

And get this: There's a condition called "Broken Heart Syndrome" which commonly follows the death of a spouse - and it primarily affects women, causing chest pain and sudden heart failure.

But there's good news: Scientists say finding purpose after the death of a spouse and maintaining hobbies and interests can mean the difference between life and death. In other words, finding something else to live for.

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6 comments so far | Post a comment now
foxymama October 9, 2008, 3:10 PM

So true…my grandfather died one week after his beloved, my grandmother, died. He literally died of a broken heart.

cara October 9, 2008, 3:20 PM

I totally agree with this,but I feel much of it is more becaue of ou minds, as I feel our minds are so powerful. I also feel vice-versa is true, that we can keep ourselves alive too, even with delibrating disease.

elaine williams October 10, 2008, 9:11 AM

This article content is relevant, but I would caution also it is primarily addressing those who are widowed much later in life, perhaps 65 years and older or even anyone in their 70’s and 80’s. There are plenty of 20, 30, 40, 50 something widows and widowers out there that won’t fall under this category. I am a 51 year old widow and I plan on having many healthy years to go. So the only modification I would add to this article is a guideline as to what age group you are addressing.

Cattwmn November 17, 2008, 7:33 PM

When my best friend’s grandmother died earlier this spring, we talked about how her grandfather could soon follow. He did - about 4 weeks later, at age 96. They had been married nearly 70 years and both in relative good health, mentally bright, till the grandmother fell, and developed pneumonia. Grandpa told my friend’s mother: ”How do I get through the day if I can’t kiss my gal good morning?’ I feel her grandparents kept each other ‘going’.

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