I’ve read many studies over the years about the times that put your heart at the greatest risk.
Some research warns that when the temperatures plunge in winter, it can put an extra strain on your heart. And that’s especially true if you have to do more strenuous activities like shoveling snow, clearing off your car, or de-icing the areas around your home.
Other studies point to the dangers of the summer season. The heat can cause your heart to work harder as your body struggles to keep cool.
But it turns out there’s another time that’s even tougher on the old ticker. And it’s not tied to the weather. Instead, it happens during one of life’s most tragic events… the loss of a loved one.
New research reveals that grief doesn’t just take a toll on your mental health. It can put a strain on your heart, too.
In other words, you could technically die of a so-called “broken heart.” But I’ve got some tips on protecting yourself from this frightening risk.
The hidden toll of a “broken heart”
Nothing hits harder than the loss of a loved one. And if it’s a spouse, you can feel sad and alone as you cope with the absence of your other half, often for the first time in decades.
Now, a new study of more than 100 adults who lost a spouse over the previous year shows how this form of grief can put your life at serious risk.
Grief can trigger inflammation, to begin with. That alone can drive up your risk for heart issues. But the danger doesn’t end there.
If you encounter one of life’s many other stressful events while you’re still mourning, it can send your heart risk skyrocketing.
Each of the patients in the study was asked to rate their grief levels. Then they were given tests designed to provoke stress.
For example, the volunteers participated in mock job interviews full of pushy questions and were asked to perform some tricky math on command.
The tests predictably caused inflammation levels to jump. After all, that’s what stress does to our bodies, no matter the cause. (Check out my earlier report,”4 silent signs your body is battling chronic inflammation.”)
But the inflammation levels skyrocketed in those with higher grief levels (likely due to a more recent loss). In fact, their inflammation levels leaped by as much as 19 percent.
That’s enough of a jump to trigger a potentially deadly cardiovascular incident. And that’s especially true if you already have any heart issues.
How to protect your heart from grief
You already have a lot on your mind when you’ve lost a loved one. But it’s seldom that you get to just process your grief alone.
Instead, you often have to juggle everything from funeral arrangements to financial changes. And just when you think things are getting a little better, something can happen to bring all that grief roaring back.
With all that going on, it’s not easy to find time and even the will to care for yourself the way you should. But it’s essential to make that a priority, too.
It’s easy to let harmful habits sneak in when you’re battling grief. Things like eating ultra-processed convenience foods, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, smoking, and not getting enough sleep also increase inflammation levels.
And, of course, that puts your health and heart at even greater risk.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. But do your best to dial down the bad habits. Minor changes are less overwhelming but can make a big difference. Like maybe choose to eat fresh whole foods more often. Or swap that second glass of wine for a cup of tea instead.
And consider adding some natural inflammation-fighters to your routine, such as fish oil and curcumin. Both are also natural mood-boosters. Which makes them an excellent choice for anyone battling grief.
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