Emotional Stress and Heart Disease
Emotional stress and trauma have been shown to increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. Those who have had more emotionally stressful events have a higher risk of heart attack.
A new study shows how sadness in particular damages the heart.
Sadness & Inflammation
When we go through grief and sadness, we literally “break” our hearts. This effect is so strong that researchers were able to detect it in a blood test. With just a standard blood draw, researchers were able to find significant differences between those who are grieving more and those who are grieving less.
A new study looked deeper at the reasons behind the link between sadness and heart disease by studying 99 individuals who had lost their spouses. Presumably, these individuals would likely be going through much more “sadness” than the average person, thus heightening the effect.
Researchers split the 99 individuals into two groups, high grief and low grief, based on their responses to a grief survey.
They found that those who had relatively less grief also had lower levels of inflammatory markers in their bloodstream.
What are inflammatory markers
Depression and Inflammation
They also looked at how many depression symptoms each individual had. grief and depression are two related but distinct phenomena. It is possible to be grieving without being depressed, and to be depressed without having something specific to grieve about.
They found that depression was associated with the same changes in your body. With just a simple blood test, they could determine differences between those who were depressed and those who were not.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation & Heart Attacks
These inflammatory markers are interesting to doctors because they have been linked to heart disease, the biggest killer in the United States, as well as other conditions.
Interleukin 6, which was one of the most significantly affected inflammatory markers in the blood, has been linked in multiple studies to a higher risk of a heart attack.
Those with the highest levels of interleukin 6 had about 2.5x the risk of heart disease, including heart attacks, compared to those with low levels of interleukin 6.
Keys to Health
Bereavement and grief are a normal and unavoidable part of life. With love comes grief. No study in the world is going to be able to fix that.
What the study does provide is an insight into the mechanisms behind the link between heart health and sadness.
Inflammation is a part of your immune system, which you need to fight off infections.
However, when your body is always inflamed, this can be damaging. We’ve known that sadness can damage the heart. This study shows us how.
Sadness increases the amount of inflammation in your body. The inflammatory proteins and molecular signals flowing in your blood then in turn leads to damage in your blood vessels and heart, increasing your risk of heart disease.