If you have ever had your heart broken, you know how much it can hurt. The pain isn’t just in your head, though. In fact, science shows us that a heart contains neurons, much like your brain, sending signals that activate and deactivate certain regions.
Therefore, emotional agony can have severe and long-lasting health effects, although these are typically reversible with time and TLC. Here are five little-known health effects of a broken heart that you should understand not to feel guilty about nurturing yourself when life happens.
1. It Can Feel Like a Heart Attack
Did it feel like your world was coming to an end when the person you thought was “the one” announced that they wanted to see other people? You might have found yourself going weak, even a bit dizzy. Your chest may have felt tight and constricted, your heart pumping as if you recently ran a marathon.
Your physiological reactions weren’t imaginary. Researchers have identified a condition known as a broken-heart syndrome that occurs from emotional shock. Some scientists think the phenomenon results from the sudden increase in adrenaline that temporarily injures your heart. Others believe the sensation stems from a temporary constriction of this organ’s arteries.
Please note: If you experience shortness of breath and chest pressure, it could indicate a heart attack. If symptoms don’t disappear or your heartbeat becomes rapid and irregular, please call 911.
Diagnostic imaging of the heart indicates changes after experiencing sudden shocks like job loss or losing a loved one. In particular, the left ventricular wall’s balloon undergoes changes. Fortunately, the condition typically reverses itself within a few weeks or months if you practice self-care.
2. It Can Elevate Your Blood Pressure
You shouldn’t trust time alone to help you heal, especially if you face considerable tension in other areas of your life. Research out of Australia indicates that untreated chronic stress causes changes in your brain that keep your blood pressure elevated. Considering that heart disease remains the number one killer of men and women worldwide, this should concern you enough to take action.
So make sure to treat yourself gently during this time by using stress-reducing techniques such as yoga, meditation, and massage therapy. Lose yourself in your hobbies and connect with your support system. Finally, take it easy on your other duties — reduce your workload as much as reasonably possible to give yourself time to heal.
3. It Can Worsen Pain Severity
If you have chronic pain or illness, you might find that a broken heart makes you ache all over. This effect may occur because the stress hormone cortisol causes physiological changes in your body that can trigger flares.
Therefore, you have an additional reason to treat yourself kindly while you recover from the shock. One technique to try is adopting an anti-inflammatory diet to bring down pain severity. To do that, try eliminating processed foods high in salt, sugar, and white flour and consuming as much plant-based goodness as possible.
4. It Can Weaken Your Immunity
Can a broken heart make you sick? Yes. And the reason lies in stress hormones again. Excess cortisol produces inflammation, which your body tries to fight. It’s like sending the fire department to a nonexistent blaze — it leaves fewer reserves at the station for fighting off germs.
To combat that, maintain your fitness and hygiene routines as you heal. Exercise boosts immune function by pushing out germs before they can cause infection. In addition, hand-washing removes that nasty bacteria before they can enter your body.
5. It Can Make You Gain Weight
Cortisol does serve a vital immune function, but too much of it can backfire in multiple ways. You could find yourself adding more notches to your belt.
This stress hormone makes your body think it needs reserves to prepare for a continued onslaught. Therefore, you start to crave foods high in calories and fat. The stereotype of drowning your sorrows in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s has a scientific basis.
Please don’t beat yourself up for indulging in the occasional treat. However, do try to maintain a healthy diet as much as possible to decrease inflammation and feel better about yourself in general.
The connection between your heart and mind is more complex than science first imagined. So treat yourself kindly after an unexpected emotional shock, and consider these health effects of a broken heart.
Featured image via Abbat on Unsplash