Beware of a broken heart

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We have often heard of people cohabiting for years and as soon as one partner passes, the other follows shortly afterwards. The phenomenon is all too common for it to be a coincidence. The cause of death is often a broken heart.

Not just a figurative expression

The figure of speech “a broken heart” has long been at the centre of human attention. Researchers have confirmed that this is not just a figurative expression, since extended periods of intense stress can inundate the heart with chemicals that may throw it out of whack, resulting in irregular heartbeats, heart attacks or convulsions.

Clearly, as to how exactly this works to affect the brain and its resulting signals may forever elude man. People, therefore, who suffer break-ups, divorce, separation, or the loss of a loved one in death, must never take this lightly. In fact, some men who suffer break-ups cannot find the will to live and thereafter commit suicide after killing the partner and sometimes other family members. A broken heart is real.

The killer shock

How did it reach here? A break-up? You never saw it coming. It was just ‘yesterday’ you knew in your heart that this is the one you will marry. You enjoy each other’s company, recognise the compatibility and know that the attraction is mutual. And now this, the relationship dies and anger, regret and sadness take over.

Few things in life cause as much heartache as the break-up of a romance. Morton Hunt in The Young Person’s Guide to Love states: “Only about one out of five people, at the break-up of a teenage love affair, feels indifferent. As for the people who didn’t want the break-up at all, most of them feel torn apart, crushed, wildly angry.”


From animals to humans

I can never forget a home I used to frequent, two rambunctious dogs would greet me each time. One day, I went and never got the customary greeting. One dog laid at the entrance to a door. He looked sad and defeated. After enquiring, I was told that the owner decided to give the other dog away.

Brain specialist Stephen Oppenheimer of the Johns Hopkins University medical school in Baltimore says the insular cortex is the part of the brain that links the heart with emotions. The expert discovered, through experimentation with rats, that when the insular cortex is stimulated it occasions heart muscle damage, apparently along the similar lines with what happened to the dog, and comparable to what obtains in humans who suffer sudden cardiac fibrillation. Similar stimulation of this region of the brain has revealed changes in heartbeat pattern and irregular blood pressure readings. Scientifically, then, it is possible for a broken heart to kill you.

A broken heart is clearly a factor in the death of some who have lost a partner in one way or the other, who see no hope ahead. As creatures of habit, we feel it is impossible to readjust from a mode to which we have grown accustomed.

Agonising emotionally may go deeper than physically. A broken heart is something you must monitor or seek help to monitor; friends and family must be attentive to provide support for those who suffer a broken heart. Your life and that of others may just depend on how well you deal with a break-up, or how well you help those you know deal with it.


Warrick Lattibeaudiere (PhD), a minister of religion for the past 23 years, lectures full-time in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Jamaica.

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