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Why Does the Heart Throb?

I don’t know why they call it heartbreak. It feels like every other part of my body is broken too.

Anonymous

When talking about sadness we use terms such as heartbreak, heartache, heavy-hearted and so on. Is the emotion of sadness and the heart really that intimately connected? And, better yet, can a healthy heart help with physical and emotional health, or broken heartedness? With Valentine’s Day approaching, it’s an interesting reflection to have!

A few still believe the heart plays a role in us falling in love, or in our likes and dislikes, and in many other activities of daily life. Well, no matter how much songwriters may try to convince us otherwise, the heart really has no part in making us fall in love with someone, other than it may beat faster and harder in reaction to all that is tied to the thought of that person. Did you know, that when we are emotionally charged, our body needs more energy, and it’s the heart that helps provide that energy by increasing the needed blood supply to our body.

As many believe the heart is connected to falling in love, the question may be, where did that notion come from and how did the heart become the key symbol of love and emotions? No one knows exactly but, similar to explanations for many other phenomena and romance, you won’t be wrong if you point to the ancient Greeks from the B.C. era. Subsequently, philosophers like Plato and Aristotle also validated the ideas by providing “scientific” embellishments to these theories. And accordingly, as folklore grew, nothing became more important than to connect the heart with love and emotion on Valentine’s Day.

As many believe the heart is connected to falling in love, the question may be, where did that notion come from and how did the heart become the key symbol of love and emotions? No one knows exactly but, similar to explanations for many other phenomena and romance, you won’t be wrong if you point to the ancient Greeks from the B.C. era. Subsequently, philosophers like Plato and Aristotle also validated the ideas by providing “scientific” embellishments to these theories. And accordingly, as folklore grew, nothing became more important than to connect the heart with love and emotion on Valentine’s Day.

As recent scientists have worked hard to dispel the myths of the heart leading to a multitude of emotions and even being the cause of serious consequences such as depression, psychosis and death, a recent discovery of a growing, recognized syndrome has put a spotlight on the issue once again; Takotsubo Syndrome”. The other name for this syndrome is “Broken Heart Syndrome”. It’s a condition where a sudden episode of stress, often times after a tragic life incident, may result in the weakening of the heart and in some cases may result in death. Scientists have learned that in addition to emotional stress, this can also be brought on by medical problems such as fever, strokes, or seizures, which can affect the heart.

No matter what your beliefs may be about the role the heart in love and emotions, one thing is for sure; a healthy heart is your best chance for a healthy life, in love or otherwise. The best advice to keep your heart healthy can be found in many credible resources such as the website Heart.org. But remembering the basics of heart health is the first step, such as staying active, eating healthy, refraining from smoking, drinking in moderation, and finding ways to relieve stress and be happy.

Bottom line, the heart may not decide who your heartthrob is, but it needs to stay healthy for you to receive and enjoy their love for decades to come!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dr. Arif Nazir MD, FACP, CMD, AGSF
President, SHC Medical Partners