Here lies the body of our beloved Annie
A woman who was loving and smart
She lived life with grace and beauty
Until it was taken away by her broken heart
From romantic love to love towards family and friends, from love of one’s self to love for material objects, love, in any form, will always remain fascinating and mysterious even. The passion and emotional attachment that come with it will perhaps remain unexplainable. But what is more mystifying are the strange effects that happen when one loses the one thing that he/she loves, when the heart – capable of love – is torn into pieces.
A heart can be broken figuratively. But behind this metaphor are real stories of grief and sorrow. Death, breakup, physical separation, and romantic rejection are some causes of heartbreaks. Some people have more difficulty coping with a broken heart than others. Some give in to deep depression, and some even inevitably resign to death. But to conclude that they die because they can’t fend for themselves or are just too weak to handle the stress is a mistake.
Broken Heart Syndrome is a condition in which people experience severe, acute cardiac symptoms following an episode of extreme emotional stress. It is also known as the Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, where a traumatizing incident triggers the brain to distribute chemicals that weaken heart tissue. It is believed to be brought on by an adrenaline rush that occurs in the aftermath of almost any stressful situation, which causes the left ventricle of the heart to take on a cone-like shape, which resembles the shape of a pot the Japanese use to capture octopus, tako-tsubo.
However, a study completed by The Harvard Medical School on Broken Heart Syndome several years ago challenges the theory of Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. Its focus is on the “human event” that provides the original name rather than equating it to all stressful events.
Beginning in 1993 and lasting for nine full years, the study of broken heart syndrome conducted by the Harvard Medical School remains the largest study of its kind, with 518,240 couples, or more than 1,000,000 people participating.
In the beginning, the subjects of the study were six long-time couples hooked up to heart-rate monitors as they slept beside each other. The results revealed that during the night, while they were sleeping, their heart rhythms began to fall into sync, rising and falling at the same time. The printouts of their EKGs looked virtually the same. This study aimed to prove that people who are in a relationship for decades create a sort of a co-energetic resonance with each other. And an undesired occurrence will most likely happen when one goes away.
The phenomenon most often takes place in older people who have been together for a long time. Surprisingly, the study indicates certain illnesses affect the remaining spouse differently. The more a disease interferes with a spouse’s physical and mental ability and the more burdensome it is, the worse it is for the health of the partner. Another unexpected result of the study showed that men are more likely to die of broken heart syndrome than women.
Whether it is the theory of the Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy or the study completed by The Harvard Medical School that explains it best, we can certainly conclude one thing: the heart beats along with another. For others it’s love, for some it’s science. The world has become too preoccupied with observing the rising divorce rate that we have neglected the ones that have really lasted. We tend to ignore those that have stood the test of time, those who kept their promises of devotion and fidelity, and those whose hearts stopped beating when their partners died.
* This article first appeared in The Philippine Star.