Old people don't die of a 'broken heart', but because grief weakens their immune system, according to scientists.
Dr. Anna Phillips, who led the University of Birmingham study, said ''I believe it's the answer to why we see wives and husbands dying soon after the death of a spouse, who is their main social support.''
The researchers argue that this could help explain why elderly couples often die within days of each other. They found that bereavement causes stress hormones to become unbalanced in the elderly and lead to a reduction in immune system cells.
They analysed a type of white blood cell called the neutrophil, which plays a critical role in fending off any invasions of bacteria or other infectious agents that could lead to serious illnesses, such as pneumonia, which often claims the lives of elderly, bereaved people. While neutrophil numbers were not lowered in the older people, their ability to kill bacteria with destructive molecules called reactive-oxygen species was compromised.
However, the researchers found that the phenomenon was only seen in people older than 65. Younger people appear to be less susceptible to the physical effects of bereavement on their immune systems.______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
''A broken heart bleeds tears''
~ Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free