Postdate: 28 November 2018
It seems almost the opposite of Valentine’s Day. Not the happiness of love, but the pain of losing your loved one. A recent study showed that the chance of dying due to an acute cardiac arrest is 16 times higher the day after the death of a partner.
Extreme physical pain or acute and overwhelming feelings of fear are very intense sensations. The same goes for sadness, for example following the loss of a loved one. There are examples of partners in a couple dying soon after one another, often because of a broken heart, also called broken-heart syndrome. You can literally die of sadness in some cases.
However, it is not only negative emotions that can cause this. The main thing is the intense feeling. So you should also be careful if you ever suddenly win a hefty sum of lottery money: the sudden, intense feeling of joy can also break your heart.
But what happens exactly when a heart is so badly broken that it can’t be put together again? The massive release of adrenaline can lead to paralysis of the bottom half of your heart. This is the part of your heart you might feel beating when you put a hand to your chest. The heart muscle here refuses to carry on and stops contracting. Why only that part becomes paralysed and not the rest is unclear. The damage looks suspiciously similar to what can be seen after a heart attack. One part of the heart stops working and no longer helps to pump blood around the body.
Reacting to stress
Only in this case, which is called stress cardiomyopathy, or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, would you find no constrictions in the blood vessels. The name comes from Japan, where this serious reaction to stress was first described.
It mainly affects women. But watch out… men can be affected too. Indeed, it appears that they actually fare worse than women. It appears that women in particular are affected by a broken heart; men appear to just die immediately. The months of July, August and September are particularly notorious.
Apparently, spring is the time to fall in love; late summer the time to say farewell to your loved one. But if you do survive? Then things will, almost always, be fine again after 1-2 months.