Many cremations services are offered in Horseheads, NY to take care of loved ones who have died, and their families after the death. Among these are grief resources to help the bereaved family as they go through the grieving process.
A particular aspect of grieving is a rare, serious condition that is known as broken heart syndrome. We speak of broken hearts metaphorically when something bad happens. It may be the breakup of a relationship. It may be a death. It may be just a disappointment about something we expected to happen that didn’t.
However, cardiologists and neuroscientists have shown that the heart-mind connection in the face of loss is more than metaphorical. For people who suffer from broken heart syndrome, research has shown that their brains function differently than the brains of healthy people. This, in turn, shows that what happens in the brain can have a negative effect on the heart.
The medical term for broken heart syndrome is Takotsubo syndrome. In general, it follows the occurrence of extreme stress, such as the kind that people feel after they lose someone they love. What happens in the heart is that it abruptly weakens and begins to bulge. This bulging looks like a Japanese octopus trap called a takotsubo (a Japanese doctor first identified and described the syndrome).
Neuroscientists and cardiologists, from the beginning, believed that the disorder (which mainly strikes women and, though sometimes fatal, resolves gradually over a period of time) was connected to how the brain controlled the nervous system under stress.
Sympathetic nervous system ramps up in the face of danger (fight or flight). The parasympathetic nervous system calms down when the danger has passed. The limbic system creates and handles emotional responses.
Normally this process of these three systems is characterized by close communication so that autonomic processes, such as the beating of the heart, run smoothly. A group of cardiologists in Switzerland hypothesized that a disruption in the communication of the three systems could be responsible for broken heart syndrome.
They created a research group composed of 15 people who had recently been through and survived broken heart syndrome and 30 people who had never had broken heart syndrome.
When the cardiologists performed functional MRIs on all 45 subjects, they found some interesting results. In the 30 healthy people, the parts of the brain associated with the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, and the limbic system lit up together when stress was applied.
However, in the broken heart syndrome survivors, communication among these areas of the brain was almost nonexistent. Especially noteworthy was the lack of neuronal activity between areas of the brain to control the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
What this meant for these survivors is that the normal physiological cool down and calming that normally happens after a stressful event was less likely to happen, leaving them in an extended fight-or-flight state, which had an adverse effect on the heart.
The results of this research suggest that broken heart syndrome has its origins in the brain, where reactions or overreactions to stress occur. What the research didn’t show is whether stress changed the brains of the broken heart syndrome survivors, which then led to cardiac problems, or if the brains were just predisposed to handling stress poorly.
If you’d like information about grief resources and cremations services in Horseheads, NY, talk with our knowledgeable and compassionate team at Roberts Funeral Home for guidance. You can visit our funeral home at 279 Main St., Wellsburg, NY 14894, or you can contact us today at (607) 734-7811.