How Grief Can Break Your Heart
by Joseph Mercola: Use
This Superfood To Help Remove Mercury From Your Tissues in Weeks
a significant person in your life raises your risk of having a
heart attack the next day by 21 times, and in the following week
by 6 times, new research shows
- The abrupt
increase in risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack following
extreme stress may be related to the flood of stress hormones
your body is exposed to
cardiomyopathy, aka “broken heart syndrome,” which causes many
of the same symptoms as a heart attack, is also known to occur
shortly following extreme emotional stress
- If you’re
currently grieving or going through any type of emotional stress,
it’s important to take steps to support positive mental health,
not only for your mind but also for your body
a broken heart may seem more like a scene from a Shakespearean drama
than reality, but extreme grief really can "break" your heart.
In the days
after losing someone close to you, your risk of suffering from a
heart attack goes through the roof increasing by up to 21
If You Lose
a Loved One, You're at Serious Risk of Having a Heart Attack
It's well known
that psychological stress exacts a great physical toll on your health,
but new research reveals just how extreme that toll can be.
how grief affects your heart disease risk within a period of time,
researchers found that losing a significant person in your life
raises your risk of having a heart
attack the next day by 21 times, and in the following week by
The risk of
heart attacks began to decline after about a month had passed, perhaps
as levels of stress hormones begin to level out.
The study did
not get into the causes of the abrupt increase in risk of cardiovascular
events like heart attack, but it's likely related to the flood of
stress hormones your body is exposed to following extreme stress.
adrenaline increases your blood pressure and your heart rate, and
it's been suggested it may lead to narrowing of the arteries that
supply blood to your heart, or even bind directly to heart cells
allowing large amounts of calcium to enter and render the cells
temporarily unable to function properly.
while your risk of heart attack increases following severe stress,
so does your risk of what's known as stress cardiomyopathy
or "broken heart syndrome" which is basically a "temporary"
heart attack that occurs due to stress.
Did Penn State
Football Coach Joe Paterno Die from a "Broken Heart"?
the beloved former head football coach at Penn State University,
died just 74 days after he was fired from his position in the wake
of a sex abuse scandal. It was last November that child sex allegations
were brought up against Jerry Sandusky, Paterno's assistant at Penn
State, and many blamed Paterno for not doing more to protect the
as saying the incident was "one of the great sorrows in my life,"
and noted he was "absolutely devastated" by the allegations against
Sandusky. This undoubtedly placed great stress on Paterno, and in
combination with also losing his position at Penn State, may very
well have contributed to his demise.
officially said that Paterno died from complications from lung cancer,
stress, grief and a broken heart would be hard to rule out as contributing
Syndrome Often Mimics a Heart Attack
of stress cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome are very similar
to those of a typical heart attack chest pain, shortness
of breath, low blood pressure and even congestive heart failure
can occur. There are some important differences, however.
In broken heart
syndrome, the symptoms occur shortly after an extremely stressful
event, such as a death in the family, serious financial loss, extreme
anger, domestic abuse, a serious medical diagnosis, or a car accident
or other trauma. This stress and the subsequent release of stress
hormones are thought to "stun" or "shock" the heart, leading to
sudden heart muscle weakness.
can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention,
however it is often a temporary
condition that leaves no permanent damage. In most cases a typical
heart attack occurs due to blockages in the coronary arteries that
stop blood flow and cause heart cells to die, leading to irreversible
damage. But people with broken heart syndrome often have normal
arteries without significant blockages. The symptoms occur due to
the emotional stress, so when the stress begins to die down, the
heart is able to recover.
Far More than Your Heart...
The fact is,
you can't separate your health from your emotions. Every feeling
you have affects some part of your body. And stress can wreak havoc
even if you're doing everything else "right."
stress like the examples noted above can obviously have near-immediate
impacts on your health, but so can lingering everyday stressors
that we all juggle, particularly when they're not dealt with over
time. This causes your body to remain in "fight or flight" mode
for far too long much longer than was ever intended from
a biological standpoint.
One of the
most common consequences of this scenario is that your adrenal glands,
faced with excessive stress and burden, become
overworked and fatigued. This can lead to a number of related
health conditions, including fatigue, autoimmune disorders, skin
problems and more. Stress has also been linked to cancer
by acting as a pathway between cancerous mutations, potentially
triggering the growth of tumors. In fact, stress, and by proxy your
emotional health, is a leading factor in virtually any disease or
illness you can think of.
Any Proven Ways to Deal With Grief?
to the original study, the grief experienced following the loss
of a loved one is easily one of the most devastating experiences
a person can face. So what can you do to get through it?
the emotional intensity of feelings of grief will recede over time,
but the grieving process itself will be unique to you. You might
feel denial and anger, but you might not. You might feel depressed
or a yearning for your loved one, or you might not. It's important
to open your mind to the notion that whatever you feel during your
grieving process is OK, and likely exactly what you need.
can feel insurmountable and become understandably all-consuming,
take comfort in the fact that virtually everyone is able to move
past the dark feelings. Typically within six months, you'll begin
to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
grieving process, be gentle with yourself and take steps to support
positive mental health. Exercise
is very helpful for this aspect. Other common stress reduction
tools with a high success rate include prayer, meditation and yoga.
The Emotional Freedom Technique,
or EFT, is another option; it's a psychological acupressure
technique, one I highly recommend to manage stress and optimize
your emotional health.
remember that both your mind and mood are significantly affected
by your diet, so don't dismiss that part. While it may not be a
miracle cure in and of itself, it can be extremely difficult to
achieve sound mental health without the proper
foundation of a sound diet and exercise plan.
is another critical issue. You can have the best diet and exercise
program possible but if you aren't sleeping well your mental health
can suffer and it is difficult to make healing progress. You can
tips to help improve your sleep habits here.
untended, emotional trauma like losing a loved one can lead to serious
health problems down the road anything from heart attacks
to depression and cancer is possible. If you've been dealing with
debilitating feelings of grief that last for a year or more, professional
help, including counseling or working with an EFT professional,
may be warranted.
As an aside,
many of these same tips, particularly my nutrition
plan for proper diet along with regular
exercise and attention to reducing
emotional stress will drastically lower your heart disease and
heart attack risk from any cause, so it's wise to implement them
into your lifestyle whether you're experiencing grief or not.
One final tip...
low levels of vitamin D in your blood have long been correlated
risk of heart disease and heart attacks, as well as problems
with emotional health, such as depression.
So I recommend you optimize
your vitamin D levels for the sake of both your heart health
and your emotional health.
2012 Dr. Joseph Mercola
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