Can Long-Time Spouses Die of a Broken Heart?

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I've always heard, and even experienced first hand, that elderly often pass away shortly after there spouses. And it has always wondered me, is it truly due to a broken heart? Can science explain this phenomena? Or is it just a result of pure chance? Well I went searching for the answer and here's what I found.

Check out some of these first hand accounts where the deteriorated health of one long time lover led to similar set backs, and eventually the death of the other; ultimately resulting in their death only months or even days later. One story talks about a couple from Lubbock, Texas who perished only 12 hours apart from one another the day before their 64th wedding anniversary.

As I read over the accounts, I began to try and distinguish between science or pure chance. Were the spouses left behind truly facing a death due to a broken heart? Or could it just be coincidental considering all of the people who "died of a broken heart" were already of old age and soon going to pass away regardless.

It turns out the phenomena is very real medical condition, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is a condition originally named by the Japanese called takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Today it is referred to as stress cardiomyopathy and since nick named broken heart syndrome. But then another question arises, how come some elderly couples suffer from broken heart syndrome and others do not? I would argue that it all depends on the patient, the relationship with their spouse, and their current state of health at the time of their spouses death.

Here's an imagine to help explain along with a video.

1 Comment

This blog post provides a very factual explanation for the somewhat wishy-washy idea that spouses die close to each other because of that indefinable idea, grief. We now of course know that grief and loss have very real physical effects on the body, which are the cause of stress cardiomyopathy.
As for why some widows are affected and others not, it seems likely that the shock factor may play a role. In the case of the unexpected death of a partner, shock and amplified emotional stress may trigger stress cardiomyopathy, whereas a widow who has been preparing for the possibility their partner may die may be coping better with the stress. I'd be interested in seeing a study to find out whether or not this is really the case.

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