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Is it Possible to Die of a Broken Heart?
Categories: Caregiving Articles, Prevention, Senior Care Tips | Posted: 4/15/2014 | Views: 4181

Broken heart syndrome sounds like a myth, but it is real. Broken Heart Syndrome takes place in an older person who loses a partner after being together for a long time. Although this phenomenon has been around and "known" for centuries, studies have only recently been done.

These studies have been conducted around the world on longtime couples dying together and found that it is common enough to now give it the name, "Broken Heart Syndrome."

What is Broken Heart Syndrome

Broken Heart Syndrome is a temporary heart condition caused by a stressful situation, such as the death of a loved one. The condition is thought to be caused by the heart’s reaction to a surge of stress hormones or the fight or flight hormone. According to the American Heart Association, Broken Heart Syndrome can cause severe, short-term heart muscle failure and can even be fatal.

The Research on Spousal Loss

Researchers have found the mortality rate can increase as much as 50% within the first six months after loosing a spouse.One study found that rate to be as high as 66% within three months after their partner’s death.

What is believed to be the cause of this phenomenon? Some believe that it is simply a grief-related mechanism while others believe that providing care can cause illnesses for the surviving spouse or they have neglected their own health. The change in lifestyle may also play a role in that routine has been broken, especially for those who did a lot of things together. Maintaining independence and finding meaning to life is a key factor in how a surviving spouse goes on after the death of the loved one. An elderly person can easily give up; with death a result when they no longer find any meaning to life. An elderly person who is physically frail is more likely to die after the death of a spouse than a younger person and men are more likely to die of broken heart syndrome than women. This is thought to be because women are historically the organizer of daily activities, family functions, and gatherings.

Helping Someone Prevent Health Problems When a Spouse Dies

What can you do as a caregiver for the surviving spouse? The number one thing a caregiver can do is encourage the loved that their life still has a purpose and keep them engaged in family activities. Maintain regular communication and distract them from the loneliness. Encourage them to stay in contact with friends or others with similar interests. Join a Senior Citizen center or social group, which will help fill the void.  Find ways to engage and incorporate the person into daily activities of other family members.  Our "Activities for Seniors" page is a good checklist to start looking for ways to engage. 


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