Luckily, until recently, I haven’t had to deal with much loss in my life.
It wasn’t until 2022 when loss hit hard. I lost two humans and one pet that I was extremely close to.
The void they left really took a toll on me. I’m still slowly recovering.
If you’ve ever lost a loved one, you know how devastating it can be—both emotionally and psychologically.
But let’s not forget it can take a toll on our physical health, too…
A dangerous increase
According to a study out of the University of Arizona, grief can physically sabotage our heart health.
A group of participants were put through an “emotional” stress test, being asked to recall their moments of grief. Specifically, they were asked to focus on their feelings of separation and attachment.
During a 10-minute conversation, researchers instructed subjects to share a moment when they felt very alone after the death of a loved one.
Meanwhile, their blood pressure (BP) was being monitored.
Turns out, following these grief recall sessions, researchers noted an increase in systolic BP. More specifically, BP increased by an average of 21.1 millimeters of mercury, which is roughly what you’d expect to see during moderate physical exercise.
Now, if you recall some of my other writings on blood pressure, you’ll know that, while it doesn’t sound like a lot, this is a monumental increase… and a very dangerous one.
Not to mention, those who showed the highest levels of grief experienced the greatest increase in BP.
Dying of a broken heart… or hypertension
This finding, in a sense, gives legitimacy to the idea of “dying of a broken heart.”
In fact, it’s well-documented that there’s an elevated risk of death following the loss of a loved one. And perhaps this study can help explain the phenomenon.
There have been many anecdotal tales of this, but nothing as specific as the outcomes of this study.
If nothing else, these findings should serve as a wake-up call for everyone—clinical physicians and patients alike.
For one, doctors should know that if you’re experiencing grief, your BP should be monitored more closely.
And as the person enduring a loss, you should realize there are some dangerous physical implications of the grieving process. Some of which could, sadly, be deadly.
So, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Make and keep regular medical check-ups. Practice good self-care. And NEVER be afraid to reach out to friends and loved ones for support.
I discuss more tips for weathering the storm after losing a loved one in the June 2019 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“The deadly heartbreak of grief”). Not yet a subscriber? Click here to learn about becoming one.
“Grief can increase risk of heart problems, study finds.” The University of Arizona News, 06/01/2023. (news.arizona.edu/story/grief-can-increase-risk-heart-problems-study-finds)