What becomes of the broken-hearted? Latest update

broken_heart_pc_1600_wht_1665Well some of them actually die it seems.

In the post below, updated a couple of times, it’s clear that there’s a real risk of someone elderly dying following a bereavement, particularly if they have a pre-existing condition.

Danish researchers have now found that younger people are also at risk of heart irregularities after the death of a partner.

People under 60 are 40% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation which has high risks of stroke and heart failure. They are more vulnerable to heart complications in the weeks following their loved one’s death or if it was unexpected. The risk is highest between 8 and 14 days after the loss of a loved one and it takes up to a year before the risks drop to normal levels.

The loss of a partner is considered one of the most stressful life events and is likely to affect most people, independently of coping mechanisms” the researchers said.

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Researchers at St Andrews University looked at more than 58,000 couples and discovered that 40% of men and 28% of women die within 3 years of their partners – and some actually die on the same day or within a couple of weeks.

For men in particular this widowhood effect shortens their life expectancy, regardless of the actual cause of death.

After making allowances for the usual suspects ie cancer, accidents, alcohol, and even murders, they found that after the death of a partner the survivor is more likely to die as a result.

Famous examples include Johnny Cash who died 4 months after his wife, James Callaghan who died just 11 days after his wife of 67 years, and more recently a relatively young 40-year old man Simon Monjack died of a cardiac arrest 5 months after his wife Brittany Murphy and was said to have died of a broken heart.

The social effect of losing a partner means that the survivor can give up on life within 6 months. The japanese identified a condition 20 years ago known as stress cardiomyopathy, characterised by a sudden, temporary, weakening of the heart muscles, which is triggered by emotional stress or a break-up and is called the broken heart syndrome.

American doctors say the condition can be treated with heart drugs or aspirin.

But research from the Paul-Brousse Hospital in Paris – on 6,000 middle-aged adults over 5.5 years – found that people who were both depressed and had heart diseases were 5 times more likely to die than people who had only one of the diseases.

The combination tripled their chances of dying of any cause and quadrupled their chances of dying from a heart attack or stroke.

The good news is that carrots and broccoli can cut the risks of cancer and heart disease. Anti-oxidants such as carotenoids, which help fight the disease, are found in sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, broccoli, green beans and spinach.

The high level of alpha-carotene found in the blood was linked to a reduced risk of death over 14 years from cardio-vascular disease and cancer. These carotenoids, alpha- and beta-,  and lycopene act as anti-oxidants which combat oxygen-related damage to DNA.

The research was carried out in Atlanta at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention between 1988 and 2006 on over 15,000 adults from the age of 20.

And more research from America shows that middle aged men who drink a half-litre (nearly a pint) of orange juice a day can lower their blood pressure and cut heart disease.

Orange juice was known to be good for your heart but no-one was sure why. The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that it contains a naturally occurring plant chemical called hesperidin. Drinking the orange juice every day for only 4 weeks can reduce average diastolic blood pressure readings by 3 to 5 points.

Updated 6 September 2011: Interesting Times article today on microneurographer Dr Yrsa Sverrisdottir who led a Swedish team which has discovered exactly how you can die of a broken heart.

This was a familiar problem to Japanese doctors in the 90s who found that the hearts of people who suffered emotional crises changed shape constricting blood flow. Sometimes people recovered spontaneously, sometimes they died.

Two years ago Sverrisdottir began studying patients with broken hearts, patients who would not necessarily be considered at risk of heart attacks but who had the symptoms.

She measured the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and related it to brain wave patterns. She says that when someone has a big shock or suffers distress the brain sends out waves of stress hormones – the fight or flight reaction – which can be overwhelming and affects the heart; in some cases stunning it.

It may stay in a constricted state for days as the person recovers – or doesn’t. Older women seem more at risk due to loss of oestrogen and testosterone which protect the body and give people mental stability.

It just demonstrates the fine balance between the brain and the body and also confirms what people have believed for centuries – that you can die of a broken heart.

Updated 12 September 2014: Researchers at Birmingham University think that during the grieving period elderly people may suffer from lowered immunity leaving them open to infection according to a report in Immunity & Ageing.

They investigated people who had lost loved ones within the last 2 months. People aged 18-45 were more depressed and anxious and had higher levels of cortisol (a measure of stress) but their immune systems were normal. People aged 65 and over shows impaired immune responses which were less efficient at tackling bacteria.

The scientist believe that the immune deficiency may be the result of an increase in cortisol which the younger people were protected from by another hormone DHEA.

Cortisol production doesn’t change over a person’s life-time but the production of DHEA starts reducing at age 30. Professor of immune cell biology at Birmingham, Janet Lord said “We could try and rectify this by giving patients DHEA to address the imbalance or encourage people to  engage with family and friends to keep cortisol levels down“.


Short men make more house proud husbands

figure_clean_carpet_1600_wht_3782That’s according to a study by sociologists of 3,000 couples in the USA about how a man’s height impacts on his relationship.

Short men – under 5′ 7″ – were less likely to get married but once they did were less likely to get divorced compared with taller – over 6′ 2″ – men.

One reason for this (apart from gratitude cynics might say) is that they do almost eight and a half hours of housework a week, about an hour longer than the average and taller men.

The researcher said “shorter men may have a harder time getting married because they’re viewed as less masculine. Women who have traditional gender ideals might find them less desirable.

She thought the lower divorce rates were because women resistant to shorter men opted out before marrying them.

Short men are also likely to be the breadwinner as they typically marry older and less well-educated women. (1/5 of the short men in the sample were in a relationship with women who hadn’t finished high school).

I wonder how much housework Bernie Ecclestone (5′ 3″) and John Bercow (5′ 6″) do?

Stepping into the New Year: Focus on sweetness, forget the pain…


“The course of true love never did run smooth.”

( William Shakespeare, 1564-1616 )

TrueLove( Photo by epsilon-delta )

As Chuck Palahniuk once said, “It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.”

It is time to break that pattern, it is time to get free from its chains. Try focusing on the sweet side to ease the pain.

Easier to say then to do you might say… Well, may be, the following 6 tips from When Love Bugs You might help?

1Talk about your marriage. This seems like an obvious tip on how to make a relationship last, but it’s surprisingly difficult to talk about your relationship! Talking about your relationship can make it better – even if you don’t solve your problems immediately. Just talking about your marriage…

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Are you happy? – part 2

Married people are happier than single people (it could be that happy people get married more easily).

And the 30% improvement in happiness due to being married makes up for  all the negative affects of unemployment.

Just don’t get divorced (the two worst life events are losing a spouse and unemployment).

But how do you know if people are really happy? Women look less happy but angrier than they are, whereas men look less angry and happier than they are.

Probably because we expect women to be happier than men and men angrier than women and we notice when people display behaviour that doesn’t fit our expectations.

Optimism is associated with happiness, good physical and mental health and longevity whereas stress lowers our immune system so we are more likely to become ill. So middle-aged people who are happy have fewer physical symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Older people also focus more on the positive aspects of goods and services because they focus more on emotional goals than young adults.(See “Are you happy”).

We are attracted to happy people because we think they will give good genes to our children.

Extraverts are happier than Introverts because they spend more time doing enjoyable things. But introverts who are asked to behave as extroverts can be even happier than real extroverts.

Happiness IS NOT associated with: wealth (once basic needs are met), education, high IQ, youth (20-24 year olds are more depressed than 65-74 year-olds) or watching TV more than 3 hours a day – especially watching soaps.

But it IS associated with: religion (although it may be the community rather than the belief), having lots of friends, and drinking in moderation (compared to tee-totallers).

We are not evolved to be happy all the time otherwise we would have nothing to strive for. However 50% of happiness may be due to our genes compared to les than 10% due to our circumstances. We may have a “set point” or range of happiness to which we return after experiencing ups and downs. So  winning the lottery may not make us happy forever.

According to ideas from positive psychology we can raise our happiness levels by enjoying life more eg by savouring sensual experiences, by becoming more involved in things, and by finding ways of making our lives more meaningful.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of “The How of Happiness: a practical guide to getting the life you want”, suggests the following  to raise your levels of happiness:

  1. Count your blessings – keep a gratitude journal each week of 3-5 things
  2. Practise being kind – both randomly and systematically
  3. Savour life’s joys
  4. Thank a mentor
  5. Learn to forgive
  6. Invest time and energy in friends and family – these are more important than work to your happiness.
  7. Take care of your body and health
  8. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardship – having a strong belief system helps.

Same sex Czech mate

Same sex Czech mate? When people mention Prague in the Czech Republic or Riga in Latvia you probably think of booze-fuelled stag parties and liberal attitudes towards sex and drugs.

The latest report from the National Opinion Research Centre (NORC) at the University of Chicago shows that since 1994 sexual relations between adults of the same sex has been increasingly accepted in most of the 16 countries in the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP).

There are 4 … Read More

via Mike the Psych’s Blog with permission