Dying from a broken heart may be less of a myth than most people may realize. In fact, extreme grieving can lead to a deadly rise in inflammation.
Inflammation can lead to an array of negative health outcomes, including cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, depression, heart attacks, strokes and premature mortality. But do our emotional responses have an effect on our body’s inflammation levels?
A new study by researchers at Rice University and other institutions focused on the increase in inflammation among people who recently lost their spouses. The findings from blood samples suggest that grief can lead to levels of inflammation equivalent to that of life-threatening cardiovascular disease. This was found to be true in both men and women, and was particularly noted in older people.
Samples from those experiencing extreme grief, or those who felt like their lives had lost meaning, revealed that participants were experiencing inflammation levels 17 percent higher than those who were not going through such extreme emotional pain. The top one-third of grievers had levels about 54 percent higher than the bottom one-third.
The study also suggests that while grieving is healthy, unmanaged emotions, like extreme grief, are dangerous not just mentally but physically as well. Previous studies have shown negative effects of inflammation, but this is the first to suggest that grief can lead to such a dangerous increase in life-threatening inflammation.
If someone in your life, or you yourself, are going through such a dark period, try to reach for a ray of hope. Your body, as well as your soul, will be rewarded.