Scientists: Loss of a loved one may be lethal
A widow or a widower could probably «die of a broken heart», scientists discovered. The stress caused by the death of a spouse triggers a series of changes in the body, which are linked to cardiovascular illnesses.
A person whose spouse passed away within the last 3 months is likely to get a raise of proinflammatory cytokines level (a molecule that is excreted from immune cells that signals infection in the bloodstream). The survivor may also demonstrate a poor RR variability in comparison with a married person of the same sex, age, education level and body mass index.
Chris Fagundes, the senior lecturer of psychology in the Rice University’s School of Social Sciences and the chief author of the research pointed out that the risk of death from heart-related conditions increases by 41% within the first 6 months after the death of a spouse, statistics show.
Broken hearted is not a myth
The group of test subjects included 32 widowed men and women. The results showed that 47% of participants had a lower level of variability of heart rate than 33 people from the control group, who didn’t suffer a loss of a spouse. Furthermore, the test group demonstrated 7% increase of the level of TNF-alpha and 5% higher level of IL-6.
The symptoms of depression also were more pronounced in the test group of widowed people by about 20%, which is not unexpected. But the fact that the symptoms of depression are also accompanied by physiological changes that is typical of serious illnesses is something that many of us wouldn’t expect.
The age of participants ranged from 51 to 20 with the middle age of 67 years old.
The test group included 22% of men and 78% of women. The control group had the same ratio of age and sex.
According to Fagundes, the study will be of assistance in the assessment of grief on human health. The scientist hopes that it will help doctors to identify the main marks of biological mechanisms in human body connected with a loss in order to provide an effective treatment against a “broken heart.”