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A broken heart is more physical than you think (Rebroadcast)

A couple holds hands as they visit the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb.
A couple holds hands as they visit the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb.

Love operates at a physiological level.

So when heartbreak hits, it can take a major toll on our bodies — from cardiac risk, to inflammation, to altered gene expression.

After her 25-year marriage fell apart, author Florence Williams wanted to understand why.

From Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey:

People who have suffered lost love face an elevated risk of serious medical woes. It’s not just their metaphorically sundered hearts, although cardiac risk is a part of it. Their cells look different; their immune systems falter; even their language skills drop off. Why would evolution quip us with an operating system so easily weakened by an event as common as the denial of love?

[…] I set out to experiment on myself, to see if I could understand the way heartbreak changes our neurons, our bodies, our sense of ourselves. I would have my nervous system monitored while viewing pictures of my ex. At different points after splitsville, I would measure my threat-mediated biomarkers of inflammation. By better understanding the ailment, I would perhaps find some remedy.

We talk with scientists about the latest in heartbreak research — and hear your stories about lost love.

Copyright 2022 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.

Kathryn Fink