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Can you die of a broken heart?

(30 Posts)
Movedalot Thu 06-Dec-12 12:14:34

At the Degree Congregation at Birmingham University yesterday I read:

Immunity experts at the University have found biological evidence to suggest the bereavement lowers physical immunity, putting older people at risk of life-threatening infections. They have found that the emotional stress of bereavement is associated with a drop in the efficiency of white blood cells known as neutrophils, which combat infections such as pneumonia, a major cause of death in older adults.

Ana Thu 06-Dec-12 12:16:02

Makes sense to me.

jeni Thu 06-Dec-12 12:21:19

The best university there is!

Greatnan Thu 06-Dec-12 12:28:38

Shakespeare got it wrong when he said 'Men have died and worms have eaten them, but not for love' (As you like it).
My mother told me that when her mother died, her father, who was in normal health, stood at the graveside and said 'I'll soon be with you, Kate'. He was dead in three days. I have known similar stories amongst other elderly couples.
I am a great believer in the effect that our emotions have on our physical well being. We know that some people with incurable illnesses sometimes just give up and 'turn their face to the wall'.

absentgrana Thu 06-Dec-12 12:41:16

Unlikely to be pneumonia – "the old man's friend" – in the future though, given the increasing uptake of the pneumonia jab among over 65s. However, you can't vaccinate against a broken heart.

FlicketyB Thu 06-Dec-12 14:58:47

Doesnt surprise me, I am always more likely to catch bugs when I am stressed.

Granny23 Thu 06-Dec-12 16:00:45

My MIL collapsed at her husbands graveside during the funeral and died that evening. My Cousin's husband, already ill in hospital with farmer's lung, died exactly one week after young his son was killed when a car he was working on fell on him. Both these deaths were recorded as cardiac infraction - a broken heart indeed.

jO5 Thu 06-Dec-12 16:03:43

I thi nk any kind of severe stress can do it. And there can't be anything more stressful than bereavement.

absentgrana Thu 06-Dec-12 16:04:35

Well hell, we're all going to die of something. A broken heart is as good as – maybe even better –than anything else.

JessM Thu 06-Dec-12 16:52:01

The survival rate for widowers is not, traditionally, very good I believe.

Ana Thu 06-Dec-12 17:00:48

Much better for widows, though! grin

Nelliemoser Thu 06-Dec-12 17:21:45

Is that science yet again "proving" what the public have instinctively known for years. It seems to happen a lot.

Gally Thu 06-Dec-12 17:29:28

Well, like a lot of other GN's, I'm still hanging in there although some days I feel I would be happier if I wasn't here, especially around this time of anniversaries and Christmas; I can understand how some widows/ers can't go on - my inlaws died 2 months apart - he from a 'broken heart', however, there is a strong inbuilt desire to 'live' in the human being, so long as you can be positive and look forward - that's what I shall do - not about to turn up my toes just yet wink

baubles Thu 06-Dec-12 17:40:41

Good for you Gally smile

An aunt of mine, in previously good health, died six weeks after her daughter took her own life. We were convinced my aunt died of a broken heart.

jO5 Thu 06-Dec-12 17:45:12

Ana grin

Ana Thu 06-Dec-12 17:50:09

Actually a bit tactless I think - I didn't mean to upset anyone, sorry. blush

Movedalot Thu 06-Dec-12 18:17:43

Ana I don't think anyone would look at your post like that, I didn't.

Perhaps some widows/ers carry on for the sake of other members of the family? I don't think it implies that there was less love for the one who died, just that there are other reasons to carry on. I don't have any experience of this as I'm not sure my Mother loved my Father anyway.

Greatnan Thu 06-Dec-12 18:25:11

My mother was distraught when my father died, but she lived another 30 years, mostly happily until she developed dementia in the last four years.
I think women are just more resilient than men, and if they have children and grandchildren they have a powerful incentive to live.

CHEELU Thu 06-Dec-12 19:21:09

I do believe that you can die as a result of a partner dieing, Scientifically it is explained that the immune system is weak but in layman's terms it is dieing of a broken heart. It is very powerful!!!!

Mishap Thu 06-Dec-12 20:34:35

jeni - another Birmingham graduate? - I am and my OH was at med school there.

jeni Thu 06-Dec-12 20:56:57

Graduated 1968!

granjura Thu 06-Dec-12 22:28:34

My dad was a fit as a fiddle and had to look after my mum for 10 years when she became blind and wheel-chair bound. When she died he was distraught and just gave up - died 2 months later (aged 96 and mum 94). Everybody who knew them said he died of a broken heart.

absentgrana Fri 07-Dec-12 07:59:56

I doubt if you'd find "broken heart" as cause of death on a death certificate, any more than you will find "old age". Nevertheless, we all know that people can die of old age – there's nothing specifically wrong; they've just had enough. So why not a broken heart?

granjura Fri 07-Dec-12 09:25:24

Old age is often put on death certificate, but with an additional entry for primary cause, like heart failure.

annodomini Fri 07-Dec-12 10:14:40

After my aunt died, just before Christmas nine years ago, my uncle's bad cold quickly developed into pneumonia for which he declined to go into hospital and he died eight days after she did. I know that he just gave up because I had to watch him going downhill.