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By A. Pawlowski
When Barney Clark became the first person in the world to receive a permanent artificial heart in 1982, his wife asked the doctors, "Will he still be able to love me?
For centuries, people have thought that the heart was the center of love, and this notion continues even as research shows that most activities related to affection, attraction and adoration unfold in the brain.
Yet an organ that beats faster every time a loved one approaches or hurts when a partner is gone is clearly part of the story.
Although the biological pump is not the seat of emotions, it is extremely sensitive to our emotional system, writes Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, cardiologist, in his recent book "Heart: A History". He believes that cardiac psychology – the study of how feelings affect the heart – rather than new devices or drugs, will be the next step in maintaining the health of your heart.
Doctors have known for a long time that love can offer important protection to the heart, just as its absence can have serious health consequences.
"We know that patients who develop intense grief can develop acute congestive heart failure," Jauhar told TODAY.
"People who have unhealthy or difficult relationships can be at the root of low-intensity chronic stress, which can also accelerate heart disease … so we need to focus more on the metaphorical heart and less on the biomechanical heart to continue to make the kind of progress we have made in the last 50-60 years. "
A person's ability to love can be a matter of life and death, Jauhar writes. Indeed, recent studies have shown that divorced, separated, widowed or never-married cardiac patients have a higher risk of death than their married counterparts. Married people are also less likely to develop heart disease than single people and they are more likely to survive a heart attack.
What happens to your heart when you fall in love?
According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, a dozen brain areas work together to release chemicals such as dopamine and adrenaline.
In the early stages of love – lust and attraction – adrenaline and norepinephrine accelerate the heartbeat; your pulse will activate then you only think about the object of your affection or whenever that person is close. Dopamine causes euphoria.
Later in the relationship – when intense romantic feelings fade, but that deep bond of lasting love takes over – endorphins and hormones vasopressin and oxytocin create "a general sense of well-being and security, "said researchers at Loyola University's health system. .
Studies have shown that higher levels of oxytocin are associated with lower blood pressure and lower heart rate.
Long-time lovers can become so close that their hearts beat synchronously and if one of them suffers, simply holding hands can synchronize their breathing and help remove discomfort.
The burden of discord and grief
On the other hand, having a bad relationship with your partner is corrosive to heart health and should be treated, said Jauhar. An unhappy marriage can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by increasing blood pressure and heart rate.
And intense grief after the loss of a loved one can lead to a real broken heart. Danish researchers have discovered that people who have lost a partner suddenly have a 41% higher risk of atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat that can lead to a stroke or heart failure.
When couples who have been living together for decades die within a few weeks or even hours, doctors sometimes accuse "broken heart syndrome" or takotsubo cardiomyopathy – a disease that actually causes a change in the heart in response to extreme stress. or mourning, such as a break-up or death of a spouse, writes Jauhar.
So, take good care of your heart and pay attention to who you give it to: "It's not just a simple pump, it's a pump that really represents a canvas for our emotional lives", a- he declared.