© 2022 West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Telling West Virginia's Story
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

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

Kathryn Fink

WVPB is local news, education, music, and entertainment for West Virginia.
Your donation today will help keep us strong and vital.