Clingy Spouse Could Mean Heart Problems

Clinging to your spouse could bring on heart problems when your spouse dies. Spending most of your time with your partner or calling them or taking care of them can be risky to your health. A study by Rice University Psychologists about attachment orientations concludes that clinging spouses are more likely to develop heart disease than those who are more "distant." Psychologist Dr. Michelle Rinella explains the stress they are going through. “If you see your role in life is taking care of your husband, and your husband dies, your new job is to establish a new identity for yourself. That’s a big crisis to go through.”

Dr. Rinella says our physical well being is closely tied to our emotions. "Anxiety can lead to inflammation which can lead to heart disease. The worst fear for a person who has clung to their spouse for years is for their spouse to die." According to a new study from Rice University Psychologists, not only are they emotionally devastated but are susceptible to heart disease. Says Rinella, "Stress, which can be used interchangeably with “anxiety can lead to inflammation in some people. Inflammation can lead to heart problems over time.”

The aim of the study was to be able to identify who is most at risk for mental and physical health problems immediately after the loss so appropriate care could be delivered sooner.

Angie LeRoy and Chris Fagundes of Rice University are the study's authors. The paper was co-authored by Tess Gabert, a medical student at Brown University; Luz Garcini, an assistant professor at UT Health San Antonio; Kyle Murdock, an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University; and Jacoba Heijnen, an immunologist at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. These co-authors completed their research for the paper while working or studying at Rice. The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. 

Happy senior couple holding hands and walking in park

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